Mbuya (Village Mask)

Tundu (Clown 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 tundu (called kindombolo or mabanbolo in Eastern Pendeland) ‘male clown’ mask. It is the first mask to appear during the festival and is also one of the only masquerades that performs with other dancers during festivities. The masquerade ridicules the bad behaviour and vices that some among the community exhibit by performing 'disgusting' moves showing the negativity that surrounds those that do not follow social standards. The masquerades also function to clear the performance area for other dancers during festivals; they are crowd control for the dance arena.

Distinguishing Features

Common features among most 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 (Tundu – Clown):

  • Dimensions = 10.75 inches x 7.25 inches
  • Crude finishing (adze not smoothed out)
  • Blackened face
  • Smallpox scars on face (usually on the nose)
  • Protruding eyes OR enormous eyes with pulled down eyelids
  • Some with acute cheekbones
  • Some possess massive upturned nose with nostrils clearly displayed
  • Tubular and off-center mouth OR extended wide to mask edges and chin

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