Giant Masks from the Congo | BELvue
Temporary exhibition

Giant Masks from the Congo

A Belgian Jesuit ethnographic heritage

The exhibition presents a set of masks used during the mukanda male initiation rite among the Yaka and the Suku, people of the southwestern DR Congo. These masks, along with other pieces on display, reflect the ethnographic research and collection conducted by Jesuit missionaries in the Belgian Congo. The Jesuits were in close contact with the RMCA since the late 1910s. These masks are remarkable in their exceptional form and design. Most of these pieces have never before been seen in public or in print.

The first part of the exhibit describes the work of the Jesuits in the Kwango mission and provides the portrait of several Jesuit collectors. A wealth of documents – handwritten letters, published excerpts, maps – sketches out the context in which pieces were collected and the collaboration that began in the 1910s between the museum and the Jesuits. The RMCA holds the large collection from the former Jesuit missionary museum in Heverlee in trust and is in charge of its conservation, archiving, restoration, and scientific analysis. 

The second part presents the mukanda rite among the Yaka and Suku, as well as a few neighbouring groups.

The third and last part – the highlight of the exhibition – shows a series of rare and large kakuungu masks: the giants of mukanda.

A companion catalogue contextualises the pieces on display and provides more detailed discussion of some complex themes.

The exhibit is a collaboration of the Royal Museum of Central Africa, the Society of Jesus, BELvue Museum, and the King Baudouin Foundation. With the support of the National Lottery and IC insurances.

Clic here to see the video of the exhibition (© M. Wolmark - BIAPAL asbl 2015)


Activities organised in the framework of the exhibition

Practical information
  • From 13th of May till 8th of November 2015
  • Monday (only for groups with reservation)
  • From Tuesday till Sunday (accessible to everyone)
  • Free entrance