There is not much information concerning the significance of these distinctive masks. Frank Herreman speculates "They would perhaps have been used as a sort of supernatural weapon in confrontations with hostile groups. The mask was worn by the bravest of the warriors so rendering him invulnerable". (Herreman and Petrides, 1994, p.217, no.107). A similar mask to the present example, collected by A Hutereau in 1912 in the Monzali chiefdom, and now in the Africa-Museum, Tervuren is illustrated by Herman Burssens (1995, p.273, fig. 242). Hutereau reported it had been used during wars and dances and to engender fear in the enemy. Fieldwork by Mary McMasters in the late 1970s corroborated the much earlier use of masks by the Boa in warfare but the practice may have finished at the beginning of the 20th century when, in an unsuccessful Boa revolt against the Congo Free State administration, the masks failed to provide the expected invincibility (Burssens, op.cit., p.388).
The earliest recorded masks of this type were collected before 1886 and Marc Felix (1987, p.16) categorizes this "first" type, whose most distinguishing feature is the large separately carved ring-shaped ears, as having been collected before 1910. According to Burssens about twenty such masks are known. The large pierced ears represent the helical perforation of the ear, a practise recorded to have existed mainly amongst the eastern Boa groups.