Congo Masks and Music Logo

Nov. 8, 2019–Sep. 12, 2021

In partnership with

Presenting sponsor

Sponsored by

The Stunning Masks and Vibrant Music of the Congo

MIM’s newest exhibition, Congo Masks and Music: Masterpieces from Central Africa, offers a glimpse into the dramatic and lively masquerade traditions of Central Africa with an exclusive collection of more than 150 stunning and rare masks, instruments, and costumes from the late 1800s to early 1900s.


Go Behind the Masks

Masks represent powerful supernatural beings that come to life in human, animal, or hybridized form. Through music and dance, masks dramatize and articulate different peoples’ worldviews, histories, religious beliefs, and morals. Constructed out of materials including wood, feathers, beads, fiber, and metal, the intricate masks showcase remarkable artistry and craftsmanship representative of dozens of Congolese cultural groups.

Experience the Performances

Congo Masks and Music is the first exhibition to fully contextualize masks alongside musical instruments in their authentic performance settings. The collection features an array of musical instruments, including drums, bells, rattles, whistles, thumb pianos, xylophones, and harps, paired together with corresponding masks and full masquerade costumes. Many instruments visually reference particular masks.

Exclusive archival photography and video footage featuring masks and traditional music performed in ceremonies allows guests to fully experience one of Africa’s most vibrant traditions.

Video Spotlight

Become a Member

Bwoom Mask

A catalog for the exhibition is available for purchase at the Museum Store or online at

Step inside one of Africa’s mostpowerful and enduring art forms.

November 8, 2019–September 12, 2021

Pende masquerade at Lufushi, Congo (Democratic Republic); Photograph by Léon de Sousberghe, c. 1957; EEPA 1999-100042; Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives; National Museum of African Art; Smithsonian Institution