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Bwoom Helmet Mask

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unknown Kuba (Congolese)

Bwoom Helmet Mask

Late 19th century - Mid 20th century
Wood, glass and stone beads, seeds, sheet metal, raffia, cloth, and leather

21.5 in. x 10.5 in. x 12 in. (54.61 cm x 26.67 cm x 30.48 cm)

Bryn Mawr College
Accession Number: 99.3.124
Other Number(s): 105 (237) (Neufeld Collection Number)
237 (Sotheby's Lot Number)
Geography: Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Classification: Ceremonial and Performance Artifacts; Masks
Culture/Nationality: Bushoong, Kuba, Congolese, Central African, African
Collection: Neufeld Collection
Description: Bwoom, the figure represented by this helmet mask, is part of the royal founding family of the Kuba people of the Western Congo Basin. In Nsheng, the Kuba capital, Bwoom is seen as ranking second to Mwashamboy, his brother and the founder of the Kuba kingdom. The forehead of this wooden mask is made of sheet copper, a metal associated with the ruling class in some Central African cultures. The eyes have no openings, so the wearer of the mask has to look through the holes in the nostrils during performance. The dancers of the Bwoom mask are usually covered completely and their costumes are noticeably less decorative than that of the Mwashamboy masqueraders.

Keywords Click a term to view the records with the same keyword
This object has the following keywords:
  • adaptive reuse - The conversion of outmoded or unused things, often things having historic value, to new uses or application in new contexts. Examples include reuse of buildings, objects, software, etc.
  • African - Refers to the cultures of the continent of Africa, which is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Central African - Nationality, styles, and culture of the people of the nation of the République centrafricaine.
  • Congolese - Nationality, styles, and cultures of the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • helmet masks - Masks that enclose the head entirely or in part, especially those worn during African ceremonies and masquerades.
  • Kuba - Describes works created by the African people of the same name living in the central Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • masks - Refers to coverings for all or part of the face, usually with openings for the eyes and sometimes the mouth. They are worn to hide or alter the identity of the wearer or for protection. Masks as cultural objects have been used throughout the world in all periods since the Stone Age. Masks are extremely varied in appearance, function, and fundamental meaning. They may be associated with ceremonies that have religious and social significance or are concerned with funerary customs, fertility rites, or curing sickness. They may be used on festive occasions or to portray characters in a dramatic performance and in re-enactments of mythological events. They may be used for warfare and as protective devices in certain sports. They are also employed as architectural ornaments.
  • performances - Instances of the execution of an action, operation, or process in performing a literary, artistic, musical, theatrical, or other creative work.
  • recycling - Recovery and reuse of materials and energy from waste.

Additional Images Click an image to view a larger version
Additional Image 99.3.124_BMC_pr_2.jpg
Additional Image 99.3.124_BMC_pl_2.jpg
Additional Image 99.3.124_BMC_f.jpg
Additional Image 99.3.124_BMC_f_3.jpg

Exhibition List
This object was included in the following exhibitions:
  • On Selecting: Profiles of Alumnae Donors to the African Art & Artifacts Collection , Jan 25, 2017 – Sep 2, 2017
  • Backtalk: Exposures, Erasures, and Elisions of the Bryn Mawr College African Art Collection Bryn Mawr College , Feb 5, 2015 – Jun 1, 2015
  • Worlds to Discover: 125 Years of Collections at Bryn Mawr College Bryn Mawr College , Sep 24, 2010 – May 28, 2011
  • Akala: Kenyan Tread Art , Jan 1, 2005 – Jun 1, 2005
  • Selected Works of Art, Archaeology, Ethnography and Decorative Arts from the College's Collections Bryn Mawr College , Feb 20, 2002 – Feb 24, 2002
  • African Art in the Greater Philadelphia Area The Community College of Philadelphia with a Grant from the William Penn Foundation , Nov 12, 1999 – Dec 17, 1999

  • Owner Name: Mace Neufeld and Helen Katz Neufeld, Class of 1953
    Role: Donor
    Place: Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, US
    Ownership End Date: 12/20/1996

Bibliography List
The following Bibliography exist for this object:
  • Marianne Hansen and Emily Croll. Worlds to Discover. Bryn Mawr College. Bryn Mawr, PA, 2010
    Page Number: 29
  • "Bryn Mawr College Alumnae Bulletin," Bryn Mawr College Alumnae Bulletin (May 2015): 72.
  • "African Heritage Document and Research Center." (Accessed June 11, 2020): Record No.: 0022902.
  • Important Tribal Art Sotheby's . New York, NY, 1989
    Figure Number: 237
  • Tamara Johnson, "African Art in the Greater Philadelphia Area." PaCIE News (Spring 2000): 1.

Comparanda List
The following Comparanda exist for this object:
  • Monica Blackmun Visona and Robin Poynor. A History of Art in Africa (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc., 2001), 390. Figure Number: 11-63
  • "The Collection." The Art Institute of Chicago Online Collections Database. (Accessed April 9, 2020): Art Institute Chicago, Accession No.: 1982.1506.
  • "The Met Online Collections Database." The Met Collection. (Accessed April 9, 2020): The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Accession No.: 1979.206.49.
  • "The Brooklyn Museum Online Collection." The Brooklyn Museum Online Collections Database. (Accessed April 9, 2020): Brooklyn Museum, Accession No.: 73.178.
  • "Yale University Art Gallery Online Collections." Yale University Art Gallery Online. (Accessed April 8, 2020): Yale University, Accession No.: 2006.51.166.

Related Bibliography List
The following Related Bibliography exist for this object:
  • Joseph Cornet, "The Itul Celebration of the Kuba." African Arts 13, no. 3 (May 1980): 29-92.
  • Monica Blackmun Visona and Robin Poynor. A History of Art in Africa (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc., 2001), 381-392.
  • Joseph Cornet, Art Royal Kuba (Milano: Edizioni Sipiel, 1982), 264-266.

Portfolio List Click a portfolio name to view all the objects in that portfolio
This object is a member of the following portfolios:

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<ref name=BMC>cite web |url= |title=Bwoom Helmet Mask |author=Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections |accessdate=2/4/2023 |publisher=Bryn Mawr College</ref>

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