Photographs © Tim Hamill
Masks are the primary art form of the Lwalwa people who live near the
Kasai River in the Dem. Rep. of the Congo. Among the Lwalwa masks serve
to witness initiations and circumcisions of the youths and some are danced
during hunting rituals.
Lwalwa masks display a balanced composition, an enlarged angular nose, a protruding mouth and narrow slotted eyes. These sharply delineated features give Lwalwa art an almost geometric appearance. The shapes of the nose are modeled after different birds. The choreography of masked dances was highly complex and had to appease the spirits of the ancestors and compel them to intervene. Masks still play a role today in secular festivities but now the mask dances are performed for payment, and their magic has largely given way to entertainment. This group of masks, despite their traditional appearance, are relatively new and probably made to be sold.
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