Pumbu Chief's Masks
Wood, pigment, raffia
Of the three masks belonging to the chiefly regalia of the Eastern Pende people, Pumbu is deemed the most dangerous and is reserved for only the most powerful chiefs. The Pumbu, unlike the majority of other masks, is only danced on special occasions such as when the chief is seriously ill, in times of illness or famine, when other issues are causing disruption in the community or when the chief feels threatened. Through the dancing of the Pumbu the chief asserts his authority.
The interlacing diamond patterns of the mask are symbols of chiefship and royalty. The large wide opened eyes of the mask convey anger. The bared teeth of the mask symbolize the fierce power of the chief and the ears sticking out from the sides of the mask mean that the chief hears everything that goes on and knows all. The overall aesthetics of the mask are meant to evoke fear, this idea is even more evident in the performance of this mask. The performer must be restrained by ropes, and onlookers are kept at a safe distance by young men wielding whips. At the end of the dance, the mask breaks loose and kills a stray animal (chicken or goat) to display its deadly power." - From http://cti.itc.virginia.edu/~bcr/studentwork/jones/royalty.html
Despite their appearance, these Eastern Pende Pumbu masks show no evidence of age or use and were probably made to be sold.
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