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Cap mask
Date: Mid-20th century
Medium: Wood, pigment, plant fiber, raffia, cloth
Dimensions: H x W x D: 74 x 44.1 x 27 cm (29 1/8 x 17 3/8 x 10 5/8 in.)
Credit Line: Bequest of Eliot Elisofon
Geography: Democratic Republic of the Congo
Object Number: 73-7-367
Search Terms:
Male use
Object is not currently on exhibit

Yaka masks are associated with nkanda male circumcision and puberty rituals. Initiation masters and the leaders of the initiates wear this type of mask in choreographed appearances of the male ancestors and culture heroes to promote life, growth, and healing and to welcome a new generation of men. The masks contain complex and subtle references to male and female sexuality, the fertility of the earth, and the cycles of the sun and the moon. At the end of the ceremonies, the masks are either destroyed or sold. Traditionally the mask's upward turning nose was removed and burned, with the ashes being kept until the next initiation ceremonies.

Cap mask composed of a wood yellow and grey face with projecting narrow slit eyes, upturned nose and incised teeth. There is a vertical handle under the chin. The superstructure is fabricated with cloth stretched over an armature and adorned with blue, yellow, white, red and black geometric patterns. The central spire is flanked by two small crests and a skirt of raffia fringes edges the mask.

Eliot Elisofon, New York, -- to 1973

Celebration: A World of Art and Ritual, Renwick Gallery, Washington D.C., March 17, 1982-July 10, 1983

Smithsonian Institution. Office of Folklife Programs and Renwick Gallery of the National Museum of American Art. 1982. Celebration: A World of Art and Ritual. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, p. 111, no. 125 (not illustrated).

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