The Tabwa are a people living in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo,
and in Zambia, on the Tanganyka Lake.
They are strongly influenced culturally by their neighbors Luba and Hemba.
They are known artistically by their ancestor statues, their anthropomorphic helmet masks, their buffalo masks, their high-backed seats, their axes, scepters and headrests.
According to Evan Maurer, the buffalo is the only animal portrayed in the Tabwa masks. The buffalo which plays an important and varied role in their culture could personify the masculine power vis-a-vis the feminine presence of the other masks, (anthropomorphic) The power of the animal is accentuated by the thick neck, the massive head and the curved horns. The typical intense and hypnotic character of the look is obtained by the shells (cowries) representing the eyes. As for the upholstery nails, they are a reminder of the facial scars of the Tabwa people
(Evan M. Maurer, dans "Arts d'Afrique Noire, dans la collection Barbier Mueller" présenté par Werner Schmalenbach, Fondation Maeght, 1989, page275)