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20th C. African DR Congo Budja Wood Dance Crest

Central Africa, northern Democratic Republic of Congo, Budja people of the river Lualaba, ca. mid 20th century CE. A handsome example of a dance crest, carved from wood to form a curved shape with a large horizontal cutout near its center. A basketry base, covered by thick, brown, hanging plant fibers forms a place for the crest to be worn comfortably on the head. The crest is meant to symbolize a mythical animal, probably a rooster or other kind of bird. These crests are worn during fertility ceremonies and are also meant to give luck to hunters. This example has some leaf-like motifs carved very lightly onto its upper wooden face. It also has the name "Pepe Cale" incised above a repeated "X" motif along the base of the crest, just above the fibers. Size: 10.75" W x 15.5" H (27.3 cm x 39.4 cm)

Who is "Pepe Cale"? Did he make the mask or own it? Possibly this might refer to Pepe Kalle (1951-1999), an important Congolese musician known as the "Elephant of Zaire", who is credited with influencing the sound of African popular music from the mid-1980s onward. An interesting mystery!

Condition: Wear on wooden surface, especially around edges. With a rich patina. The basketry is in nice condition, while the fibers are all present, but a bit crushed.

Provenance: private New York, New York, USA collection

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