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MIM’s exhibition, Congo Masks and Music: Masterpieces from Central Africa, offers a glimpse into the dramatic and lively masquerade traditions of Central Africa with an exclusive collection of more than 150 stunning and rare masks, instruments, and costumes from the late 1800s to early 1900s.
Curated by Manuel Jordán, MIM’s deputy director and chief curator, and Marc Felix, MIM board member and international expert on African art, Congo Masks and Music explores the connections between masks and musical instruments while reflecting the diverse settings of masquerades. Masquerades take place for a variety of reasons—to educate, entertain, demonstrate power, and connect humans with the spirit world.
Masks represent powerful supernatural beings that come to life in human, animal, or hybridized form. Through music and dance, masks dramatize and articulate different peoples’ worldviews, histories, religious beliefs, and morals. Constructed out of materials including wood, feathers, beads, fiber, and metal, the intricate masks showcase remarkable artistry and craftsmanship representative of dozens of Congolese cultural groups.
Congo Masks and Music is the first exhibition to fully contextualize masks alongside musical instruments in their authentic performance settings. The collection features an array of musical instruments, including drums, bells, rattles, whistles, thumb pianos, xylophones, and harps, paired together with corresponding masks and full masquerade costumes. Many instruments visually reference particular masks.
Exclusive archival photography and video footage featuring masks and traditional music performed in ceremonies allows guests to fully experience one of Africa’s most vibrant traditions.
A catalog for the exhibition is available for purchase at the Museum Store or online at theMIMstore.org.
Presenting sponsor U.S. Bank
Sponsored by The Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation
Supported by Lorraine L. Calbow, Christine Lindley, Katherine & Randy Schneewind, Carolyn & John Friedman, Jan & David Wood, Angelo & Micheline Addona, Babette & Richard Burns, Mary Ann & John Mangels, Ann Phillips, Hao and Michelle Wang Foundation, Jeffrey Heimer & Linda Brock, and Paula & Arlie Sherman