African art > African mask, tribal art, primitive art > Kifwebe mask
Luba Kifwebe Kikashi mask (N° 20897)
Ex Belgian African art collection
This African mask Songye, the kikashi, embodies a positive force. The half-closed palpebral slits are stretched toward the temples, with the nose and mouth projecting rectangularly. The flat nasal-frontal ridge indicates that this is a female mask. Parallel striations are etched into the white-pigmented surface.
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Three variants of this Kifwebe (pl. Bifwebe) or "death chaser" mask (Roberts), from the society of the same name, can be distinguished: the masculine (kilume) generally with a high crest, the feminine (kikashi) with a very low or even absent crest, and finally the largest embodying power (kia ndoshi). This type of mask, still used today, seems to come from the border area between the Northern Luba and the Songye of the Southeast. They are worn by a Kifwebe dancer in a state of "bwadi" trance. They are worn by a Kifwebe dancer in a state of "bwadi" trance, accessorized with a long woven costume and a long natural fiber ornament attached to the contours of the mask, during major ceremonies. The Songye came from the Shaba region of the DRC and settled along the Lualaba River in the middle of the savannah and forests. They are governed by the yakitengé and by local chiefs. The Bwami secret society, however, counterbalances their power. Their male masks, with occult powers, were displayed during punitive and disciplinary expeditions.
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