Songye Mask - D.R. Congo

With its powerful presence and richly striated surface, this kifwebe mask shows the distinctive hallmarks of the familiar Songye carving tradition. The mask's profile reveals the strongly projecting forms and haunting elongation that make the kifwebe so incredibly memorable.

Kifwebe masks were made for the Bwadi Bwa Kifwebe association, a type of policing society that provided a means of controlling social behavior and neutralizing disruptive elements within Songye society. These masks appeared at the installation and death of a chief and at the initiation rites of young men, as well as a whole range of occasions that included punishments, warfare and public works. Kifwebe were created in a gendered manner and male and female masks held differing associations. This example is likely a depiction of a female spirit, being primarily white in pigmentation and lacking the prominent sagittal crest found on male masks.


Songye
Wood, fiber, pigment, shells
Late 19th century or early 20th century
H: 12 3/4" W: 6 1/2"
Ex Charles Ratton; Merton Simpson; Michael Oliver; Alan Stone
#396
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