Ngady a Mwaash
ca. early 20th century
wood, cowry shells, beads, cloth, raffia, pigment
Democratic Republic of Congo
Museum Purchase, 0.375

Ngady a Mwaash is the female mask in a triad of Kuba royal masks. The color and designs on this mask are important symbols: red suggests suffering; white stands for mourning; and blue means high rank or status. Triangles signify hearthstones and domesticity, and the lines under the eyes represent tears indicating the hardships of women. The strip of beadwork that covers the mouth of the mask indicates the silence of women. The mask - which is worn by men - is used in funerary and initiation ceremonies, as well as in the yearly retelling of the story of the origins of the Kuba people.