African art > African mask, tribal art, primitive art > Songye Mask
Masquette Songye Kifwebe (N° 19526)
African art among the Songye.
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This mask is a reduced copy of the "wooden mask" Kifwebe (plural Bifwebe), the same type of which was produced by the Luba and Songye. The term Kifwebe refers to the mask, the society of masks, and the wearer of the mask belonging to the male secret society bwadi bwa kifwebe which provided social control.
There are three variants: the masculine (kilume) generally with a high peak, the feminine (kikashi) with a very low or even absent peak, and finally the tallest embodying power (kia ndoshi).
Height on base: 30 cm.
These African masks are equipped with holes on their outline so that, for the most important ceremonies, a costume can be attached to them, including a voluminous beard made of natural fibers.
The white striations would symbolize the plumage and the link with death.
In the sixteenth century, the Songyes migrated from the Shaba region to settle on the left bank of the Lualaba River in Katanga and Kasai. Their society is organized in a patriarchal way. Their history is inseparable from that of the Luba to whom they are related through common ancestors.
Very present in their society, divination made it possible to discover the sorcerers and to shed light on the causes of the misfortunes that struck individuals. The masked performances of the male masks were an opportunity to accomplish punitive expeditions and to maintain social order. Female masks, which were supposed to have divinatory powers, activated benevolent spirits through their dances.
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