African, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Yaka peoples
20th century
Artist Unidentified

Object Place: Democratic Republic of the Congo


Overall: 55 x 42 x 40 cm (21 5/8 x 16 9/16 x 15 3/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Wood, cloth, raffia, paint

Not On View


Africa and Oceania, Contemporary Art



The Nkanda initiation ceremony celebrates the circumcision of Yaka youth. Masks such as this one are used to protect the boys during their transition into adulthood. The masks are also used to ensure the future fertility of the newly initiated. The Nkanda initiation ritual is noted for its sexually charged imagery and songs that relate to masculine power and dominance.


1977, acquired in Paris by Geneviève McMillan (b. 1922 - d. 2008), Cambridge, MA; 2008, to the Geneviève McMillan and Reba Stewart Foundation, Cambridge; 2009, gift of the Geneviève McMillan and Reba Stewart Foundation to the MFA. (Accession Date: June 17, 2009)

Credit Line

Gift of Geneviève McMillan in memory of Reba Stewart