The Lwalu (some sources use 'Lwalwa') in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola are primarily known as mask makers. Sculptors occupy a privileged place in society (such as community chiefs) and are responsible for the initiation and circumcision of young men and boys. They are also responsible for creating the masks used by the ngongo (also called bangongo) secret society during these initiation ceremonies.
There are four key types of wooden Lwalu masks:
The masks created are worn by masqueraders, during nighttime performances and in groups of ten, to celebrate the circumcision of the young initiates. In the past, when humans were still sacrificed during the initiation, the masked dancers were also said to pacify the spirits of victims and to obtain their assistance as intermediaries between the living and the spirit realm. Some sources state that ngongo masks are also danced to ward off misfortune during the hunt.
Common features among all ngongo masks:
Sub-type variations (shifola male mask):
NOTE: Male and female mask forms distinguished through handling of prominent noses