Mbuya (Village Mask)

Fumu (Chief Mask)

By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:


Mbuya village masks are used to entertain a community during non-ritual festivities. Once used during mukanda initiation ceremonies to mark the end of male circumcision rituals, mbuya masquerades are now used to highlight a number of characters and roles in Pende society. There are two main groups of masks used during festivals. The following include some of the characters portrayed during festivities:

Comedic Masks (Mbuya Jia Ilelesa)

  • Tundu (Clown)
  • Gandumbu (Old Female Widow)
  • Mubolodi (Man On Way To Chop Down A Tree)
  • Tata Gambinga (Diviner)

Masks of Beauty (Mbuya Jia Ginango)

  • Matala (Young Man)
  • Pumbu (Executioner)
  • Mbangu (Bewitched)
  • Giwoyo / Kiwoyo-Muyombo (Long Bearded Man)

Others include the Chief (Fumu / Ufumu), the Village Flirt (Gabuku), the Prostitute (Ngobo) and the Witchdoctor (Nganga). One of the many mbuya masks performed at community festivities, is the fumu 'Chief' mask (also referred to as mafumu, lemba or muatha). Fumu masks are considered to be one of the most dangerous of all mbuya masks to whomever comes into contact with them.

Distinguishing Features

Common features among must mbuya masks:

  • Triangular face
  • High, protuberant, jutting forehead
  • Half-open coffee bean eyes
  • Widened eye-slits
  • Downcast expression
  • Upturned nose
  • Most feature sharp teeth
  • Geometric forms

Sub-type variations (Fumu – Chief):

  • Three or four pointed, long horns or buns
  • Bulging, short and rounded forehead
  • Forehead adorned with a midrib
  • Pierced nostrils
  • Mouth an open triangle
  • Usually coloured yellow, red or black
  • Raffia goatees dangling down from chin (beard signifies elderly dignity)

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