Kasangu Mask, Salampasu, D. R. Congo (formerly Zaire), Central Africa.

Salampasu masks were integral part of the warriors’ society whose primary task was to protect this small enclave against invasions by outside kingdoms. Boys were initiated into the warriors’ society through a circumcision camp, and then rose through its ranks by gaining access to a hierarchy of masks. Earning the right to wear a mask involved performing specific deeds and large payments of livestock, drink and other material goods. Once a man ‘owned’ the mask, other ‘owners’ taught this new member particular esoteric knowledge associated with it.

The Salampasu use masks made from wood, crocheted raffia, and wood covered with sheets of copper. Copper was a prerogative of leadership, used to legitimize a person’s or a group’s control of the majority of the people. Famous Salampasu masks made for initiation purposes are characterized by a bulging forehead, slanted eyes, a triangular nose and a rectangular mouth displaying intimidating set of teeth. The heads are often covered with bamboo or raffia or rattan-like decorations. Certain masks provoke such terror that women and children flee the village when they hear the mask's name pronounced for fear they will die on the spot.

This a fine copper sheet coated Salampasu mask, with a two-part beard of braided fiber with cane balls attached and a headdress of cane balls and woven raffia. On metal base.

Measurements: Height with beard and headdress 58 cm / 22.8 inch. Height wooden part 28 cm / 11 inch. Width 17,5 cm / 6.9 inch.

Provenance: purchased c. 1950 by a sailor.