Lavish illustrations feature both iconic and never-before-published Pende masterworks, selected to evoke the full range of Pende expression. Although many societies in the Congo were once renowned for their vibrant masquerades and architectural sculpture, these phenomena have only been studied as living traditions among a handful of peoples, most notably the Pende. Building on the extended fieldwork of numerous researchers since the 1950s, this text offers a unique window into the dynamic contexts for the arts in Central Africa. The volume privileges Pende voices as it seeks to understand the interrelationship between ritual practice and aesthetic form. Attentive to history, the author also records how these artistic practices have responded, sometimes unpredictably, to both colonial and post-colonial pressures.
Z. S. Strother is Riggio Professor of African art at Columbia University in the City of New York. She was trained in art history at Yale University, where she received her Ph.D in 1992. Since then, she has published extensively on African visual culture, including Inventing Masks: Agency and History in the Art of the Central Pende (University of Chicago Press, 1998), which received the the Arnold Rubin Outstanding Publication Award for Original scholarship published between 1998-2000. This research is based on 32 months of fieldwork among the Eastern and Central Pende, 1987-89. Her current research focuses on untangling the history of iconoclasm in Africa.