Lot 178
  • 178

A Superb Lwalwa Shifola Mask, Democratic Republic of the Congo

70,000 - 100,000 USD
bidding is closed



Jacques Hautelet, Brussels
Lee Bronson, Los Angeles, acquired from the above in the early 1970s


North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, A Survey of Zairian Art: The Bronson Collection, April 23 - June 4, 1978 (other venues: Museum of African Art, Washington D.C., July 25 - September 25, 1978; Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, Los Angeles, November 14, 1978 - January 21, 1979)


Joseph Cornet, A Survey of Zairian Art: The Bronson Collection, Raleigh, 1978, p. 182, cat. 98

Catalogue Note

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.