Kuba Moshambwooy Elephant Helmet Mask Congo
The foremost among the three most significant masks of the Kuba Kingdom, this Moshambwooy mask embodies Woot, often regarded as the "first ancestor," akin to Adam in symbolism. Legend holds that Woot and his brother competed for the affection of their sister, Ngaady aMwaash, who ultimately wed Woot. Adorned with a prominent horn resembling a bent elephant tusk, the mask is aptly dubbed the Elephant mask. Its embellishments include cowrie shells, beads, wooden ears and nose, cowrie shell eyes, beaded eyebrows, and a grand raffia ruff, with the face veiled in raffia.
This particular mask is worn during initiation rites to embody the cultural hero Woot, credited with the inception of royalty, the political framework, and many artistic and craft traditions. The upper structure of the mask is reminiscent of an elephant's tusk, a significant royal emblem. Exclusive to individuals of royal lineage, only men with such ancestry are permitted to wear this mask.
In the southern Kuba region, the elephant mask took center stage in funeral dances involving aristocratic members, typically donned by the dancer portraying the departed individual. The opulent arrangement of beads and shells served to emphasize their elevated social status. This colorful trio of characters comprises the recognized pantheon of royal helmet masks, which are eagerly sought after by collectors and museums.
Approximate Age: 20th Century
Made In: Democratic Republic of the Congo