Bembe (Babembe)

Republic of the Congo, Benin, Nigeria

The Bembe people migrated from Congo in the 18th century and resettled in the eastern part of the democratic Republic of Congo, near the boarder to Tanzania and Burundi. The “cult of the ancestors” is an important part of the Bembe social and spiritual life. They worship private and public shrines, often food is offered or animals are sacrificed, in exchange the ancestor protects the tribe. Thus ancestor figures are rare and appear only in the south-western territory.

Bembe artistic production is mostly limited to masks. There are two types of Bembe mask, the most famous Echawokaba, belongs to the secret society and is a Janus face helmet. It represents a spirit from the forest and is taken out during initiation ceremonies. In the secret Bwami society circumcision ceremonies, flat masks, with typically enlarged concave orbits and bulging coffee-bean eyes are worn.

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Fine Tribal & Modern Art Gallery