Helmet Mask: Janus

Bembe peoples

Not on view

Throughout southern D.R.C. and Angola, brightly painted and decorated masks are used to mark the transition to adult life. During the initiation period, which may last a year or more, adolescent boys are separated from the village and made to undergo a series of ordeals, including circumcision, designed to measure their strength and courage. These tests often culminate in the boys' symbolic death as children and rebirth as men. The Janus form of the Bembe alunga society mask, crowned with a headdress of feathers and porcupine quills, is worn to celebrate the return of its most recent initiates to village life.

Helmet Mask: Janus, Wood, paint, clay, Bembe peoples

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