African art > African mask, tribal art, primitive art > Songye mask
Songye Kalebwe Kikashi mask (N° 21690)
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This African Songye mask, the kikashi, embodies a positive force. The half-closed palpebral slits are stretched toward the temples, with the nose and mouth projecting rectangularly. The reduced naso-frontal crest indicates that this is a female mask. Parallel striations are etched on the white-pigmented surface.
Abraded matte patina. Slightly missing.
Three variants of this mask Kifwebe ( pl. Bifwebe) or "chasing death"(Roberts),from the society of the same name, can be distinguished: 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, seems to come from the border area between the Northern Luba and the Songye of the Southeast. They are worn by a dancer Kifwebe in a state of "bwadi" trances , accessorized with a long woven costume and a long natural fiber ornament attached to the mask's contours, 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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