A Superb Lwalwa Shifola Mask, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Jacques Hautelet, Brussels
Lee Bronson, Los Angeles, acquired from the above in the early 1970s
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.
The Lwalwa, living in the western Kasai region, have a long tradition of cultural and linguistic exchange with other central African people, including the Mbagani, Salampasu, Kete, Lunda, Yaka, Suku and Kongo (Felix 1987: 94). The Lwalwa pantheon is dominated by the Supreme Being Mvidie Mukulu, and Nzambi, the first creator, who is omniscient. Lwalwa art is most famous for the powerful, highly cubistic masks of which the Bronson mask is a magnificent and exceedingly rare example.
According to Felix (1987: 94), the "main works of the Lwalwa are their wooden masks; there are four main types, usually painted with the red sap of the mukala fruit, occasionally blackened by smoke and or dyes. They are all used in the bangongo dance to quiet the spirits, increase hunting success, and initiate bangongo society dancers. They sometimes perform at funerals of high ranking dignitaries. They are danced only at night, so as not to harm women."
Shifola, the mask type of the offered lot, is rare as is the fact that the rope that was clasped between the teeth of the performer (cf. African-American Institute 1975: 104, text to fig. 76) is still in place.