African art > African mask, tribal art, primitive art > Kifwebe mask
Kifwebe mask (N° 20725)
Extraordinary pupils project on either side of the nasal ridge of this songye mask, which unfolds at the top into a high flat ridge. A rectangular tube forms the mouth. This African mask whose volumes helped inspire the cubist art movement is streaked with lines inlaid with white pigment. Matte patina, multi-colored.
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Three types of African Kifwebe art masks are listed: the masculine (kilume) generally with a high crest, the feminine (kikashi) would present a more modest crest or even absent, and finally the largest embodying power (kia ndoshi). In the 16th century, the Songyes migrated from the Shaba region to settle on the left bank of the Lualaba. Their society is organized in a patriarchal manner. Their history is inseparable from that of the Luba to whom they are related through common ancestors. The Songyes have created impressive statues with powerful features often used during secret ceremonies, covered with accessories such as feathers, skin and a horn full of magical charge.
Divination was very present in their society and allowed them to discover sorcerers and to shed light on the causes of misfortunes that struck individuals. Kifwebe masks were also used by the Luba, who wore them with a long suit and a long beard made of natural fibers, and acted as a secret police force for power, controlling individuals through magic. They also appeared at crucial stages of initiation ceremonies.
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