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Congo Masks: Masterpieces from Central Africa


  • November 10, 2018

In the vast and culturally diverse Congolese region of Central Africa, masks function as performance objects in rituals, ceremonies, worship, and entertainment. The masterpieces in this exhibition—more than 130 striking Congolese masks—form an innovative and visually compelling display of artistry and cultures. They represent the artisans and performers who brought them to life, as well as varied communities, belief systems, and natural resources.

Dating from the 17th to the 20th centuries, these works are drawn from the finest and most comprehensive collections in private hands, with more than a dozen showcased in their complete ceremonial ensembles. The exhibition also includes original field photographs, field footage, audio recordings, and a selection of related musical instruments. Its immersive multimedia design, presenting eleven distinct regional styles of masks, evokes the diversity of ecosystems and cultures of the immense Congo. The exhibition is curated by Marc Leo Felix, director of the Congo Basin Art History Research Center in Brussels, Belgium.

Congo Masks: Masterpieces from Central Africa is organized by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in partnership with the Congo Basin Art History Research Center and Tribal Arts, S.P.R.L., Brussels, Belgium, and Ethnic Art and Culture Limited, Hong Kong The exhibition program at VMFA is supported by the Julia Louise Reynolds Fund.