Yela Ancestor Mongo Mask, Congo #654

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  • Yela Ancestor Mongo Mask, Congo #654
  • A very rare mask of the Yela People of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • It represents the Ancestor Mongo.
  • A Myth of the Origins of the Yela People recounts them as Descendants of the Great Ancestor Mongo (similar to the Tetela People with Ancestor Efomy). 
  • Another great example of Yela Art is the famous statuette belonging to Willy Mestach (described as "extremely rare statuette from the Kela/ Yela, a Mongo Group").
  • The Yela are neighbors of the Mbole and have a similar Lilwa Secret Society.
  • The mask is covered with a natural clay patina in the red, brown and white within striated grooves. Yela Ceremonial Objects have a strong geometric structure, recognizable by their long vertical three-tone color bands. We see a superb, well worn striated mask with obvious Ritual Use reduced to it's simplest expression.
  • Material: wood, pigment, kaolin and other clay pigments. The polychromy has been very well preserved.
  • This type of mask is sometimes presented as "Kela", as "Kela - Yela" or as "Mongo - Kela" (as the superb mask in the collection Reynold C. Kerr).
  • As Daniel Biebuyck said in "African Arts" in 1976, this forest area of Eastern Congo is very complex to analyze culturally, with many Ethnic Groups cohabiting and interacting in one way or another. The Yela are located near the Tshuapa River, in the area of Ikela, in the South from the Mbole People, with whom the Yela are geographically and culturally closely related. As for the Yela that some describe as a sub-tribe of Bambole, speaking a Bantu language called "Kela Yela".
  • Measurements: 30×17×12 cm
  • Condition: Excellent
  • Custom base is included
  • Provenance: Belgian Estate Collection.  This mask was used during Initiation Ceremonies but unfortunately no data was collected with the mask in the 1970's when it was collected.
  • An excerpt from The Starr Expedition Field Notes:
  • September 25, 1906 Notebook: 11 Page: 666
    "Mr. Smith spoke of the Likwele (Lilwa) Secret Society of the Lokele (Yela/ Kela) People. The last Initiation Rite took place about two years ago at Yakusu. When a group of boys at one place had finished-or begun the Rite, the news carried down the River. A dozen or twenty boys ready for the Ceremony withdraw to the Bush. They are dressed in all sorts of ornaments, dress, &c. They remain six months during which time they are abundantly supplied with food from the town. They learn the new language and are in seclusion. No one intrudes upon them except under penalty. It was at first assumed that the Rites were related to Circumcision. While not then Circumcised, the Rite is undergone by Lokele boys, but usually at an earlier age-in infancy really. In this connection Mr. Smith spoke of the little houses with male & female figures we noticed at Mirambo. They are for boys who are being Circumcised and the figures have relation to this Rite.