Jonga Mask

Object Title: Mask

Materials: Wood, pigment

Country: Democratic Republic of Congo

Culture: Jonga

Date Created: Second to third quarter of the 20th Century


The Jonga people live in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in the great central basin known as the ‘Mongo cuvette’. They are a Mongo people, meaning that they speak a form of the Central Bantu Mongo dialect and are culturally part of a cluster of peoples who have traditionally occupied this region. The Mongo peoples produce very little art, but at their periphery, where their own indigenous culture meets art-producing neighbors, the Mongo sub-groups sometimes create incredible abstract objects partially modeled on neighboring forms.

The Jonga appear to have migrated from further North with several other ethnic groups a few hundred years ago and due to strife between themselves and their original neighbors, settled at the Eastern Border of Mongo Basin roughly in the center of Congo. The art of the Jonga is not well understood and few objects have been collected with hard data.

We may speculate that Jonga masking is used in an initiatory context as with some of their neighbors but in truth, we don’t know. There do not seem to be enough examples known for these masks to have been part of any large or widespread cult among the Jonga. That they may have been the work of only one cluster of villages or perhaps even a single village is also possible given the scarcity and the regularity of design.


Exhibition History:

In Memoriam – Bonnie Terrill Ross (1956-2022). New YorkQCC Art Gallery of CUNY, October 12, 2023, to February 16, 2024