Although the NMAfA Tetela/Songye mask is not the of the form and style of the original "Tetela" mask you queried, I think it is helpful and appropriate to review all of the relevant research, claims and refutations regarding Tetela, or so-called Tetela, masks. The de Heusch article, "Beauty is elsewhere: returning a verdict on Tetela masks" is quite interesting and important in this regard and covers a much broader geographical and cultural terrain than the most southern Tetela group, the Sungu, to which you previously referred. De Heusch appears both experientially knowledgeable and extremely committed to the refutation of Tetela mask identifications. He presents a quite compelling argument and provides a rich historical, sociological and linguistic picture of the Tetela in the Sankuru district of Eastern Kasai -- amassed from observation, experience and field interview in the region. Worth knowing and considering is the considerable range of Tetela-Hamba communities which trace their ancestry from the common ancestor Onkutshu a Mambele through three major lineages -- the Ndjovu, Ngandu and Watambulu and who are then re-divided among about twenty-five sub-groups spread over a diverse geography. The lineage sub-groups are further sub-divided among peoples inhabiting the savannah regions (ase oswe) generally referred to as BaTetela and peoples inhabiting the forests (ase okundu) known as Hamba. All are are believed (and appear to believe themselves) to have moved southward from the region inhabited by the Nkutshu and to have originally followed the Djonga as they moved through the area to their present location of concentration. The Nkutshu now appear to be centered to the north of the Tetela -- and the Djonga to the northeast of Tetela-Hamba above areas inhabited primarily by the Mbole. (There is a body of Tetela statuary that seems to suggest Djonga influence and evidence that Tetela-Hamba social and ritual ideology and practice has been strongly influenced by Nkutshu and the Djonga culture.) So, the Tetela-Hamba are both "diverse within" and not impervious to regional influences...
With regard to the Sungu, the most southern of the Tetela groups to which you referred previously... The de Heusch article covers the whole geography of Tetela-Hamba peoples and includes the Sungu. The Sungu appear to be the only Tetela sub-group which reportedly crossed the Lubefu River into what is considered Songye country. The southernmost Tetela groups which Torday and Joyce seemed to have encountered in northern Songye territory were perhaps the Sungu, or Songye near which the Sungu had settled. Masks collected from that area -- including the NMAfA "Tetela" photographed, I believe, by John Noble White in 1924 -- seem to have come from KASONGO (Kilolo Kasongo or Mona Kassongo) near the area of the Sungu Tetela but are not clearly collected from among the Sungu. Referred to as mwadi and bwadi -- as Songye term -- suggests that the origin of these masks is likely from the Songye. While it is indeed possible that Tetela -- particularly a southern group like the Sungu more likely than a more northern group -- may have absorbed and integrated Songye rituals and forms and thus the name of the mask, I am not aware of any such indications. Nonetheless, integration of practices may indeed have resulted into the absorption of such mask forms among the Sungu, although there is no available evidence to suggest this occurred. Any information you might be able to gather about this possible occurrence would be illuminating. Again, perhaps there was absorption and integration of masks into Tetela-Hamba rituals as a complement to or evolution of face-painting practices which are seen in lukutu funeral ceremonies.
If you visit the NMAfA site at http://africa.si.edu/collections/advanpg.asp
and search for Search Name: Mask and Ethnic Group: Songye, you will see the mask from John Noble White to which John Buxton referred. Below is an image and the full description you'll find through the NMAfA site with reference to Luc de Heusch's commentary on the non-existence of Tetela masks. I also include for further consideration: 1) an image of the British Museum's "Tetela Songye": 2) relevant translated excerpts from -- and links to -- an article by Constantine Petridis on the Kalengula mask of the Luntu, which includes reference to the class of masks that are part of the Tetela mask discussion and provides further commentary on the ideas of de Heusch regarding the use of masks among the Tetela; and 3) two examples of masks currently online that are attributed to the Tetela.
Tetela peoples, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Wood, pigment, kaolin, raffia
89.2 cm (35 1/8 in)
84-6-6, acquisition grant from the James Smithson Society
Tetela or Songye peoples
Kasongo, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Early 20th century
Wood, kaolin, pigment, raffia
H x W x D: 89.2 x 27 x 30.2 cm (35 1/8 x 10 5/8 x 11 7/8 in.)
Acquisition grant from the James Smithson Society
This mask is carved from a light-colored wood which has been completely covered with pigment that forms a coarse matte surface. Tubular projections near the midpoint of the mask suggest eyes, and an extended ridge indicates a nose. A photograph of this mask taken in 1924 shows that the mask's top crest held vulture and guinea fowl feathers, and the mask was worn with a raffia fringe that is still present. The costume for the mask included a fiber skirt which was worn over an animal skin and a raffia cloth. The animal skin, identified as leopard, and feathers are emblems of power worn by chiefs. The collector and photographer of the mask was John Noble White, an educational missionary with the Methodist Mission at Minga in Shaba province. He identified the mask as "mwadi," the makers of the mask as "Tetela," and the owner of the mask as a "witch doctor," who used the masks for "the dance of the new moon" and for funerals and martial celebrations. There is a question whether this mask and the perhaps one dozen masks identified as Tetela in other collections are actually Tetela at all. Some of those masks are rather squat and cylindrical, with painted striped surfaces, projecting eyes and transverse crests. Some have incised linear decoration over concave faces and projecting brows, and they lack the top crest. The best known is in the British Museum. Emil Torday, an ethnographer collecting for the British Museum in 1908 in Kasongo and its vicinity, acquired masks termed moadi. He also named the people there as being Tetela, though his notes make "Sungu" seem like the preferred local designation. When Luc de Heusch did his fieldwork among the Hamba-Tetela in the forest heartland, in 1953-54, he was told that the Tetela never made masks. And while the weetshi, a diviner-healer, is active among the Tetela, there was no evidence for the use of sculptures or masks. Kasongo, however, is on the edge of Tetela country, outside the forest, and the group there is the Sungu-Tetela. Kasongo is actually in the territory of the Songye peoples. Three masks identified as bwadi were collected in 1910 by a Belgian administrator named Müller from the Tempa-Songye people of this region. They are cylindrical helmet masks with transverse crests and painted stripes and are obviously closely related to Torday's and the museum's masks. The Songye are better known for their kifwebe masks with painted facial stripes. Unlike this helmet mask, however, Songye carvers tend to incise the stripes, and the entire form is executed more as a sharply sculpted face mask. Their dancers wear knotted fiber shirts that cover the body, arms and hands. Rather than a feather crest, Songye mask costumes in collections have a hide and feather "horn" projecting from the back of the head. Despite White's and Torday's information, the word mwadi (or moadi) is not generally found elsewhere among the Tetela. However, the Songye phrase "bwadi bwa kifwebe" designates the mask society among the eastern Songye. This mask may be either Sungu-Tetela or Tempa-Songye. It is a classic example of one problem besetting African art scholarship. Many objects lack field data, and others have misleading data. Yet two basic and true lessons apply: art and ideas travel, and change occurs.
The image is here:
Excerpts from Constantine Petridis, "Brief notes on the masks kalengula of Luntu and the neighboring/related peoples (R.D.C.)"
10 SONGYE-TEMPA, Eastern Kasaï DRC
APPARENT WOOD HELMET MASKS WITH THE KALEN-GULA
Ceyssens (1990, p. 17) refers to a peak as those of the masks kalengula within the framework of a study on a small wooden mask of origin kete in the Museum fur Volkerkunde of Hamburg (Hbg. 5740: 06). This mask, collected by Léo Frobenius in 1906, had been allotted a long time in an erroneous way to Kanyok. The author also mentions “a true” mask kanyok preserved at MRAC (RG. 55128.6; . to also see Maesen, 1967, p. 50, 23.1; Felix, 1987,
pp. 50-51, 15), as another mask collected by Frobenius into 1906 which is with the Museum fur Volkerkunde of Hamburg (Hbg. 6352: 06; to see Zwernemann and Lohse, 1985, p. 183, board 47; Felix, 1987, pp. 82-83, 3). All are crowned of such “a transverse peak”, though “narrower, finer”. A sculpture connected with the mask of Hamburg (Hbg. 6352: 06) is in Seattle Art Museum (8). These masks, probably of Luba-Lubilanji manufacture, have remarkable carved horns of ram (9). Each one of these formal characteristics, the peak and the horns of ram, are also reproduced on the famous mask-bell of Luba-Katanga in the MRAC (fig.9) (1O).
Like noticed it Ceyssens (1990, p. 17), the capes kalengula out of fibres also resemble the masks-heaumes out of wooden which one thought rather recently that they were of origin tetela. Two of these masks were collected by Emil Torday in 1908 and are currently in British Museum of London. Torday allotted these masks to Sungu, a sub-group of Tetela (Torday and Joyce, 1922, pp. 75-76; to also see Mack, 1990, pp. 62-63; of Heusch, 1995, p. 189, figs. 7-8). Actually, it is probably about Songye of the Tempa sub-group. This origin is confirmed, according to Heusch (1995, pp. 190-191, figs. 10 12), by three sculptures “of the same morphological class” of that of the MRAC, collected by the colonial administrator Mueller before 1910 (RG. 2101 4/1-3; to also see Merriam, 1978, pp. 58-60, figs. 3-6; Felix, 1992, p. 5). De Heusch (1995, p. 189) estimates that Kasongo was during a certain time the place where Songye- Tempa provided to Emil Torday and John Noble White of such masks allegedly Tetela. A postcard published by the missions of Scheut, shows two people carrying of the masks close to that photographed by John Noble White in Kasongo in 1924 (10) (11).
In 1906, Léo Frobenius collected very similar masks for the Museum fur Vôlkerkunde of Hamburg (Hbg. 6586: 06, 6587: 06), that it identified like “batempa” (Zwernemann and Lohse, 1985, p. 185, board 50). Nevertheless, Frobenius qualified “ringed nputu” (mputu) - and thus, according to its theory, of luluwa Eastern - at least three other masks-heaumes with a transverse peak, which also form part of the collections of Hamburg (Hbg. 5323: 07, 5325: 07, 5336: 07). Marc Léo Felix has in his collection a specimen which resembles extremely these masks mputu of Hamburg (11). However, the owner of the mask published like “tetela”, in the stylistic zone “Umongo” (Felix, 1997, p. 117, cat. 74). Although it estimates that the mask was inspired by masks of Songye-Tempa, it confirms their attribution in Tetela.
The masks collected by Mueller were already mentioned by Maes in its book Aniota-Kifwebe (1924, pp. 33-34, and 35) (12). The author writes that it “had found” of the similar masks at Songye and Tetela in 1913-14, during his forwarding for the Museum of Tervuren. He also shows a photograph of ground of one of the masks collected by Mueller (Maes, 1924, 36 [RG. 2.101 4/4]; to also see Merriam, 1978, p. 60, 6, and Hersak, 1993, pp. 145-146). According to Maes (1924, p. 34), which was based on information of Mueller, these masks were used at Songye- Tempa” at the time of the great dances which take place at the end of the rain season “. It continues: ” When the dancers cover the figure with it, all the women flee in their huts and do not dare any more to leave there. The habit wants that when a masked man manages to remove a woman met apart from at it, the owner, father or husband, pay a more or less important ransom with the kidnapper “. If this information is believed, the masks have nothing to do with association kifwebe. If, like Songye, Tetela really manufactured such masks, remains still a question mark.
Even if Frobenius (in Klein, 1990, p. 173) believed that “truths” Tetela did not use masks, it is premature, while being based on research of ground of Luc de Heusch going back to 1953-54, to claim that Tetela never imported masks of Songye to use them themselves. Its research probably did not concentrate on the whole of the Tetela territory. De Heusch (1995, p. 189) known as itself that it forever returned besides visit in Sungu of the south of the Tetela area. In addition, the borrowed masks were not inevitably used in the same context and with the same connotations at Tetela, even if the name of bwadi were maintained.
(10), One also finds these same horns on the extremely rare masks of the cik type: - wanga of Luntu, Until now, we could locate only four of these masks in various collections. The specimen of the peabody Museum of Archaeology and Anrhropology in Cambridge (Massachusetts), was acquired by Eliot Elisofon in 1947. We expressed doubts about the identification of Felix (1987, pp, 92-93, 2) of a mask-heaume of the MMC of Tervuren like cik-wanga of Luntu (Petridis, 1995, p. 330, cat. 107).
11), the mask collected in 1924 by. “Major” Noble John White in the village of Kasongo, which constitutes to some extent an alternative on the Tempa masks more. “typical” mentioned above, forms today part of the collection of the National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C. (84-6-6), a photograph of ground of a man carrying this mask is preserved at Eliot Elisofon Photographie Files of this museum (1994-000201; to see of Heusch, 1995, p. 189, 9). Another alternative is reproduced on the cover of! drunk that Zwememann and Lohse (1985) devoted to the collection of the Museum für Vôlkerkunde of Hamburg. This mask was also collected by Frobenius at Songye-Tempa.