the misfortune mask

Mbangu misfortune mask congo

B&w wooden mask from the Leopold‘s Congo Free State genocide period (1885 – 1908), found at the Royal Museum for Central Africa, Belgium;  featured at the museum’s web page as Treasure of the month (Oct. 2011), one of the finest Pende masterpieces, linked somehow to Picasso’s Black period.

For the creators of this ritual Mbangu mask, the Pende people, a tribe known for their xylophone-based music and dances, this artifact represents someone who has been bewitched, disformed or misfortuned.

For Leopold II of Belgium, the builder king for his people, these couleur locale trophies served mostly his colonial propaganda. In its short existence, Congo Free State manage to became a byword for greed, cruelty, global hypocrisy and ruthless exploitation.