Royal Mask (Ngaady a Mwaash)Artist(s)KubaArtist NationalityKuba (Democratic Republic of Congo style)Object Creation Date1900-1983Medium & Supportwood, polychrome, glass beads, cowrie shells, cotton cloth and stringDimensions
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 LineGift of Al and Margaret CoudronLabel 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 TypemaskCollection AreaAfricanRights
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funeral ornaments (personal ornament)