Aesthetic Emotions of Masks and Masquerades in Africa

Zoë Strother, Riggio Professor of African Art, Columbia University, New York City


Experimental scientists, as well as ordinary people, have long recognized that aesthetic responses engage feelings as much as cognitive reasoning. Since the 1930s, observers have reported that spectators in West and Central Africa associate various masks with emotional experiences—including joy, humor, astonishment, awe, and terror. This talk will explore how Africans link forms and emotions in the context of masquerades in three of the societies represented in the exhibition The Language of Beauty in African Art.


To request an accessibility accommodation for a Kimbell program, please email us as far in advance as possible.


Image: Eastern Pende Pumbu mask, danced at the time of the illness of Chief Kombo-Kiboto (Mukanzo a Kilumbu). Ndjindji, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1987. Photo: Z. S. Strother