Marc Leo Felix, director of the Congo Basin Art History Research Center in Brussels, Belgium approached me while I was capturing these images at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and proceeded to give me an oral history of one of the most fascinating lives I have ever heard. A majority of the masks on display in this collection are part of Marc Leo Felix’s private collection he acquired over thirty odd years of barter with the Congolese tribes. Preserving a large part of their history that may have been lost to time.
In the vast and culturally diverse Congolese region of Central Africa, masks function as performance objects in rituals, ceremonies, worship, and entertainment. The masterpieces in this exhibition—more than 130 striking Congolese masks—form an innovative and visually compelling display of artistry and cultures. They represent the artisans and performers who brought them to life, as well as varied communities, belief systems, and natural resources.