Pende of Gungu

Pende Masks


Pende Festival: Masks, Sorcerers and Dances, DR Congo, 2014

Chief Aristotle Kibala’s biennial Pende Cultural Festival in Gungu opens with the arrival of the Sorcerers, their cheeks pierced with daggers revealing their magical powers. They are followed by the Galungonya chameleon who entertains the crowd. Frenetically dancing Angry Masks, known as Muthatho, appear in netted raffia costumes.

The powerful Kitenga mask arrives, its red disk face surrounded by hundreds of kulukulu feathers. Musicians play pulsating rhythms on calabash xylophones, homemade guitars and wooden drums. The Mbuya mask throws out grains to show how and when to cultivate crops. The terrifying three-headed Gimbombi mask is believed to hold the power to kill or even eat a wrongdoer. Stilt dancers, known as Tall Men Walking entertain the Chief while young male initiates leave the sacred forest to show off their dances. Mature women, rhythmically swinging their black raffia hair, prepare young girls for initiation. As night falls, Sorcerers’ messengers, demonstrating the fate of wrongdoers, deliver victims to the Chief Sorcerer wearing a pangolin headdress.

Finally, Chief Kibala, wrapped in a hyrax fur cape, proudly sits in front of his Private Museum, housing 14,000 Pende artefacts.