FIG. 30 (left): Mask.
Komo, DR Congo.
Wood, pigments. H: 44 cm.
Ex S. Pelt, Netherlands.
Photo: Bernard De Keyser.
1. The Komo ethnic group (often referred to by the
Swahili-influenced names Kumu or Bakumu because
of the two closed “o”s) inhabits a vast area in the
Congo-Kinshasa equatorial forest in the northeastern
part of the country, between the cities of Kisangani
and Bukavu, but closer to the former than to the latter.
The main works we have devoted to the study of their
social and ritual organization are Structures et symboles
(London, International African Institute, and Leuven,
Leuven University Press, 1980) and Qui a obstrué la
cascade? (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, and
Paris, Editions de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme,
2. The Komo language distinguishes between explosive
and implosive consonants. This is the case for “b” and
“d,” whose implosive forms are written “ƃ” and “ƌ”
3. Two versions of this legend can be found in A.
Moeller’s work Les grandes lignes des migrations des
Bantous de la Province Orientale du Congo Belge
(I.R.C.B., Brussels, 1936, pp. 352–355).
4. The fact that the different rituals among the
Komo present the same basic structure, and that
the circumcision ritual is by far the most prestigious
one, inevitably results in borrowings of terminology.
This is why, along with their original names, various
elements or functions proper to the divination ritual are
designated with terms that apply to analogous elements
or functions of the circumcision ritual.
5. Mokongá corresponds more or less to a figure that is
known in numerous African cultures and is considered
the hero-civilizer. He is recognized as the son of god
(Abábisa) in Komo culture.
6. Profane huts are rectangular, while ritual huts are
7. Cf. “La danse de la loutre (nsíбi)” in W. de Mahieu,
1985, Qui a obstrué la cascade? Éditions de la maison
des sciences de l’homme, Cambridge University Press,
Left, clockwise from upper left:
FIG. 25: Male mask, nsîmbu.
Komo, DR Congo.
Collected by Charles Hénault in the village of
Babagume for the Institut des Musées Nationaux
du Zaïre, Kinshasa, on February 18, 1973.
Photo: Charles Hénault.
Hénault archives, ref. F.73-380-141.
FIG. 26 : Masque. Komo, RDC.
Boi, pigments. H. : 54 cm
FIG. 27: Maskers. Komo,
DR Congo. Mid 20th century.
© Hénault archives.
FIG. 28: Mask. Komo, DR Congo.
Wood, pigments. H: 34 cm.
Ex Alain de Monbrison, Paris, 1990; Eduard Hess,
Photo: Thomas Lother and Volker Thomas,
Nürnberg, courtesy of Zemanek-Münster.
FIG. 29 (above): Detail of the mask
described in figure 25, now in the
collection of the Musee National de
Kinshasa, gallery 212.
Photo © Christophe Evers, 2018.