Kiyunde (Buffalo Headdress)

By: Kathryn Cua || Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:


Two types of masks are used in Tabwa culture. The first type takes form in an anthropomorphic facial or full-head mask. The second kind is a massive buffalo mask that’s worn on one’s head, sometimes with wooden handles used as support. The latter type of mask is called a kiyunde.

Kiyunde masks are primarily found in chiefdoms of Zongwe and Kalezi, located in the central zone of Tabwa territory. Masks are rare among Tabwa, and kiyunde masks are even more so. The use of kiyunde masks is not well known however, the AfricaMuseum in Tervuen states that; "In the late 19th to early 20th century, masks such as this may have been connected to important hunting societies. Later, in the 1970s, these masks were danced to foster the well-being of the community and to promote fertility."1

These masks are exemplary in illustrating the importance of buffalos to the Tabwa, as kiyunde masks are believed to represent masculinity, strength and balance.

Distinguishing Features

    • Two long horizontal horns which curve at tips
    • Carved ears just below eyes
    • Thick-set, dense head
    • Naturalism of face
    • Mother-of-pearl or cowrie shell eyes
    • Vertical and horizontal scarifications on muzzle
    • Mouth is open


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