Royal Mask (Ngaady a Mwaash)

Accession Number

Royal Mask (Ngaady a Mwaash)


Artist Nationality
Kuba (Democratic Republic of Congo style)

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
wood, polychrome, glass beads, cowrie shells, cotton cloth and string

14 in x 7 3/10 in x 11 in (35.56 cm x 18.57 cm x 27.94 cm);14 in x 7 3/10 in x 11 in (35.56 cm x 18.57 cm x 27.94 cm);21 ⅝ in x 6 3/10 in x 7 ½ in (54.93 cm x 16.03 cm x 19.05 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of Al and Margaret Coudron

Label copy
Fall 2017 Gallery Rotation Label:

With few exceptions, African masks we see in museums today were carved by men, to be worn by male dancers, often in performances that expressed masculinity and male power. Nevertheless, many masks are representations of female spirits, ancestors, or historical figures. For the Kuba peoples, this mask represents Ngaady a Mwaash, a royal female ancestor who founded their kingdom, one of the most powerful states to emerge in Central Africa in the seventeenth century.
In performance, Ngaady a Mwaash was joined by two male masks, one representing Woot, the first king of the Kuba, and the other Mbwoom, his younger brother and rival. On important occasions such as funerals and initiation rites, performers wearing the three masks acted out the dramatic dynastic origin myth of the Kuba kingdom. The performance was meant to celebrate the continuity and dominance of the kingdom, impressing the audience with the beauty and intricacy of the masks. 

Primary Object Classification
Wood and Woodcarving

Primary Object Type

Collection Area

If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form. Keywords
funeral ornaments (personal ornament)
geometric motifs

& Author Notes

Web Use Permitted