In the vast and culturally diverse Congolese region of Central Africa, masks function as performance objects in rituals, ceremonies, worship, and entertainment. The masterpieces in this exhibition—more than 140 striking Congolese masks—form an innovative and visually compelling display of artistry and cultures. They represent the artisans and performers who brought them to life, as well as varied communities, belief systems, and natural resources.

Dating from the 17th to the 20th centuries, these works are drawn from the finest and most comprehensive collections in private hands, with more than a dozen showcased in their complete ceremonial ensembles. The exhibition includes original field photographs, field footage, audio recordings, and a selection of related musical instruments. Its immersive multimedia design, presenting eleven distinct regional styles of masks, evokes the diversity of ecosystems and cultures of the immense Congo. The exhibition is curated by Marc Leo Felix, director of the Congo Basin Art History Research Center in Brussels, Belgium.

Organized by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Congo Basin Art History Research Center, Brussels, Belgium


Presented by

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The Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans Exhibition Endowment
The Julia Louise Reynolds Fund

Mr. Michael Bakwin
Ed and Beverly Jennings
Margaret and Thomas Mackell
Don and Mary Shockey

Ongoing support for VMFA’s exhibition program is provided by the following endowments: the Dr. Donald S. and Beejay Brown Endowment, the Council Exhibition Fund, the Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans Exhibition Endowment, the Fabergé Ball Endowment, and the Julia Louise Reynolds Fund.