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Pwoom Itok and mukyeem masked dancers, Muentshi, Congo (Democratic Republic). slide

Pwoom Itok and mukyeem masked dancers, Muentshi, Congo (Democratic Republic). [slide]
Usage Conditions Apply
Elisofon, Eliot
Color slides
Physical Description
slide : col
Restrictions & Rights
Permission to reproduce images from Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives must be obtained in advance. For information on photo services and research appointments, please visit or contact Archives staff at
Local number
E 3 KBA 21.6.1 EE 72
Kuba (African people)
Title is provided by EEPA staff based on photographer's notes.
Image indexed by negative number
"One of the mask here is known as Pwoom Itok, Ishendemala, Ishyeenmaal or Shene Malula. One encounters this type of mask among various Kuba group, including the Bushoong and the Ngeende. It appears during the young men's initiation and also performs as a dance mask. Pwoom Itok incarnates an old wise man who is consulted by the other dancers. The mukyeem mask, also called mukenga, is morphologically a variant of the moshambwooy mask. It is crowned with a bent-forward representation of an elephant trunk with two tusks. The mukyeem mask does not appear in the immediate vicinity of the king, but rather is seen among the Kete, Ngongo, Ngeende, and also with some other constituent peoples of the Kuba kingdom. It performs at funerary rituals of notables and evokes death. The predominant white color of the cowrie shells serves as a sign of mourning and is associated with the desiccated bones of the ancestors. When the mask performs, red parrot feathers adorn the trunk's end; this is a privilege of the notables" [Cornet J., 1993: Masks Among the Kuba Peoples, Face of the Spirits]. This photograph was taken when Eliot Elisofon was on assignment for National Geographic and traveled to Africa from January 19, 1972 to mid April 1972.
Cite as
Kuba pwoom itok masked dancer, Muentshi, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photograph by Eliot Elisofon, 1972. Image no. EEPA EECL 4091. Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution
Repository Loc.
Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of African Art, Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives, 950 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20560-0708
Data Source
Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives
See more items in
Eliot Elisofon Field photographs 1942-1972
Congo (Democratic Republic)