MSSU African Art Exibit : The MSSU African Art collection features a variety of authentic works of art from various tribes located throughout Central Africa. The objects in the collection range from mundane day to day grooming tools to ritualistic masks and statues.
Hemba Chimpanzee Dance Mask, (Mwisi Gwa So'o)
Object Name:
Mask, Dance, Hemba
Other Name:
Mask, Face, Mwisi Gwa So'o
Place of Origin:
Hemba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa
Aboriginal Indigenous Art.
H = 14"
W = 9"
D = 8"

The Hemba, who live in the southeastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, are known for their often extremely stylized chimpanzee masks, which are known in the literature by various designations. Often referred to as Mwisi Gwa So'o, a term that alludes to the "spirit—invested object of the chimpanzee—human" that inhabits such masks.

Mwisi Gwa So'o masqueraders wear a costume of animal skins and bark cloth, supplemented by the black and white hair of the Colobus monkey. To the Hemba they are frightening apparitions whose grin means rage and impending disaster.

Herzog, African Masks, P. 92

Wooden oval—shaped dance mask. Convex eyelids with narrow slits emerging from shallow sockets beneath arched brows. Long thin pointed nose, strongly set off from the face area. Broad narrow mouth opening, which gives the appearance of grinning. Protruding snoutlike mouth, flat upper lip, with two rows of half circle arches, above and below eyes. Black paint covering entire surface.
Guy Mace Collection, (Turblex Company)
Wood W/Paint
Ritually Used
Carving / Painting
Art Department, MSSU
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Front ViewFront View
Front View - 2Front View - 2
Right Side ViewRight Side View
Right Side View - 2Right Side View - 2
Left Side ViewLeft Side View
Left Side View - 2Left Side View - 2
Rear ViewRear View