African art > African mask > Songye Mask
Masquette Songye/ Luba Kifwebe (N° 15115)
This reduced copy of one of the songye mask versions, the kikashi, has eyes stretched to the temples and a very low naso-frontal crest. The quadrangle mouth has an orifice. Large parallel streaks are dug on the surface of the wood, symbolizing the plumage and the link with death. The female masks were supposed to discern the occult, evolveated at night, and mobilized beneficial forces. Abrasions of the kaolin patina.
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Three variants of this mask Kifwebe (pl. Bifwebe) or "Chasing the mort" (Roberts) stand out: the masculine (kilume) usually with a high crest, the feminine (kikashi) with a very low crest or even absent, and finally the largest embodying power (kia ndoshi). This type of mask, still used today, appears to originate from the adjacent area between the northern Luba and the Southeastern Songye. They are worn with a long suit and a long beard made of natural fibers, absent on this copy, during the most important 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 local leaders. The secret bwami society, however, counterbalances their power. Their male masks, with occult powers, were displayed during punitive and disciplinary expeditions.
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