A BAVILI HELMET MASK
Democratic Republic of Congo
Ex French private collection
Wood and pigments, 0.50 x 0.35 m
This type of mask, was created for use during the initiation ceremonies of young men. Masks played a crucial role in protecting boys during initiation, the vulnerable period between boyhood and manhood. Around the age of puberty, young boys would leave the village for camps in the forest controlled by an initiation society, to learn the manly occupations of farming and hunting. The masks were viewed as personifications of village ancestors who possessed powers that could heal the sick and improve success in hunting. Given its dignified appearance, goatee, and gracefully shaped hairstyle, this mask may represent a village chief.