Yaka , Objet art of the ethnic Yaka - African-art.net
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Yaka

Yaka statues are usually small in size and are often sculpted as a pair. The facial traits reproduce the same characteristics as the masks: half open globular eyes centered in concave eye sockets, a turned up nose and ears that stick out, a half open mouth with a slight grimace that reveals the teeth. Some Yaka statues are magical.

Yaka masks are mainly worn during initiation ceremonies. The Mbala mask, with its protruding ears and an organic spiky coiffure is at the head of the ceremonies. The Yaka initiate mask, called Kholuka, is very well known with its bulging or tubular eyes, its big turned up nose, and its half open toothy mouth. It often boasts a large raffia headdress surmounted with characters or animals.

The Yaka live in the south west of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Organisation of Yaka Society

At the head of society is the king. He is assisted by a council of titled people who he can consult if he wishes. Under the authority of the king are the regional chiefs who are in charge of the chiefs of the founding lineages and who, in turn, have under their command the chiefs of lineage. The chief of the lineage has life and death authority over its members.

The master of the earth leads rituals that are destined to favour wealth and hunting, one of the mens’ main activities.

Yaka Initiation Rites

There exists an initiation rite for young people aged between 10 and 15 years old. A hut is built in the forest to house the young people during their initiation which ends in circumcision. For this occasion there are great festivities with masks, dancing and singing. The circumcised young boys wear zoomorphic masks. This initiation is organised each time there are a sufficient number of young boys aged between 10 and 15 years old.

The diviner uses a small drum with slits during his initiation sessions.

 

Yaka Statues

Yaka statues are usually small in size and are often sculpted as a pair. The facial traits reproduce the same characteristics as the masks: half open globular eyes centered in concave eye sockets, a turned up nose and ears that stick out, a half open mouth with a slight grimace that reveals the teeth. Some Yaka statues are magical.

Medicine or remedies may be placed in the stomach of the statues and this space is then closed with resin, or contained in a bag that is attached to the statue. Their role is diverse and contradictory; it may involve healing, or casting an evil spell on someone. Among the statues there is the Khosi which measures between 30 and 80 cm. This statue is either a body with two faces and double the normal number of limbs, or two statues joined together back to back.

 

Yaka Masks

The masks each have different functions, some serve to ward off evil spirits or spells whilst others assure the future fertility of a young initiate. They also frighten the crowd, cure illnesses and cast evil spells.

Yaka masks were mainly worn during initiation ceremonies. The Mbala mask, with its protruding ears and an organic spiky coiffure leads the ceremonies. Masculine and feminine masks representing the ritual expert or « kakungu » have bloated cheeks and big eyes.

The Yaka initiate mask called Kholuka is very well known with its bulging or tubular eyes, its big turned up nose, and its half open toothy mouth. It often boasts a large raffia headdress surmounted with characters or animals. In the south, some masks are made entirely from raffia.

Yaka chiefs own prestigious objects such as neck rests, cups, adze, three toothed combs (with  handles that are surmounted by a human head with a turned up nose), or an animal figure, and clay pipes.

 

Yaka Sculptors

The sculptor carries out rites linked to his trade. He owns a bag containing magical ingredients. He sculpts initiation masks, alone and in a place that is isolated from the village. Before undertaking a sculpture he pays homage to the person that taught him his craft.

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