The mask belongs to the Dundo Regional Museum in Angola and went missing during the civil war (1975-2002). The story of the quest to find the stolen mask began two years ago, and has today reached a happy ending: the mask will be returned to the Angolan authorities. Before it is sent back to Angola, it can be seen at the Centre for Fine Arts as part of the IncarNations exhibition.
The exhibition includes a room on the ongoing recovery project around the Dundo Regional Museum, where a recently rediscovered flywhisk was put on display. The mask has been added to the room and remains on display until the end of the exhibition (6 October).
This is a ‘Chihongo’ mask, from the Chokwe people of Angola. Masks of this type are traditionally associated with the mukanda initiation ceremonies.
IncarNations shows classical and contemporary art from the impressive Dokolo collection. The Congolese collector, arts patron and entrepreneur Sindika Dokolo is also the man behind an ambitious recovery mission launched in 2014. The aim of the Dundo Project is to track down pieces of art from the collections of the Dundo Regional Museum which disappeared during the Angolan Civil War (1975-2002) and return them to their country of origin.
Through the collective efforts in partnership with collectors, art dealers, auction houses, international researchers and experts, 13 works have already been recovered and returned to the Angolan government since the start of the mission. In this way he supports the commitment of African institutions to take the management of their heritage into their own hands.
IMPORTANT SOURCES FOR THE DETECTIVE WORK
An image of this mask was first published in 1956 by José Redinha, then director of the Dundo Museum.
The mask is also included in a work of reference from 1961, published by Marie-Louise Bastin, Emeritus Professor at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. She did pioneering work in classifying and documenting around 300 important works in the Dundo Regional Museum.
Finally, the archives of the AfricaMuseum in Tervuren are another essential source in tracking down lost pieces, and research into the origins of the items is still done in close collaboration with the AfricaMuseum. The archives include an inventory of the ‘Bureau international de Documentation ethnographique’, with detailed cards giving accurate descriptions of 830 collection pieces from the Dundo Regional Museum.