A caryatid figure supports the narrow tray of this neck rest with her arms widely spread. The effigy is depicted wearing a female Songye mask called kikashi, which is still used today. This type of mask is worn during initiations with a long costume and a beard made of natural fibers.
Used as a pillow to preserve the hair arrangements of the wearer, the African neck rest forms a tribal object decorated with various iconographies embodying spiritual forces believed to influence dreams.
The Songye came from the Shaba region of the DRC and settled between the Lualaba and Sankuru rivers in the middle of the savannah and forests. They are governed by the yakitengé and by local chiefs. The Bwadi secret society, however, counterbalances their power. Their male masks, with occult powers, were displayed during punitive and disciplinary expeditions. Their appearances were linked to divinatory and socio-political objectives. (Luba, F. Neyt)
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