X76.297 Mask

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Chileya or Chiheu (guardian ancestor)
Chokwe peoples
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Late 19th-20th century
Bark, paper, fabric, cotton, fiber, wood, paint
L: 20.2 cm, H: 26.7 cm (L: 7.9 in, H: 10.5 in)
Museum Purchase. X76.297


Chileya or Chiheu is another male guardian and tutelary spirit of the mukanda initiation camp. He is active throughout the initiation process and is sometimes the first mask to appear at mukanda. Strips of colored cloth or paper are added to the surface of the mask to highlight facial features or represent different designs. Chileya is sometimes described as an older male or a fool and displays behaviors suggesting these character types while performing lively dances. Chileya’s hair is supposed to be understood as gray, thus cotton or the pelt of an animal with a white stripe, such as a colobus monkey, is attached to its head.