Gitenga mask, Minganji, E. Pende people. Democratic Republic of Congo
The Pende are comprised of groups residing in the east, central and western part of D.R.C. as a result of forced migration from northern Angola. Due to the splintering of Pende society, they have developed a wide variety of artistic styles to represent cultural ideals. With several of the groups led by chiefs, there are many works that serve to reinforce the power of the king. However, for the western Pende people, their masks serve initiation purpose. The Minganji is the most powerful initiation society of the western Pende who masquerades symbolize the dichotomies of life, the unknown and elements that inspire fear as well as renewal and goodness.
Contrary to other Minganji masks that represent death, uncertainty and darkness, the Minganji - Gitenga represents life and renewal. The disk-like mask symbolizes the sun and is an emblem of life and regeneration. The basketry face of woven fibers and raffia features two large ringed circular holes. The face is surrounded by a thick halo of black and white, gray, and turquoise feathers, which radiate on the side and back. When donned by the performer, the stoic movements of the masquerade reinforce the power and stability of the ancestor represented by the mask. The Gitenga mask enables the Minganji to reestablish order and serve as guardians to the community.
Wood, basketry and feathers, 30”h x 36”w x 24” Gift of Lee Bronson. Cat. 2001 LB 10
Blackmun-Visona, Monica, et. al. A History of Art in Africa. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson: Prentice Hall, 2008, pp. 377-9.