African art > African mask, tribal art, primitive art > Songye mask
Songye mask (N° 21930)
Belgian African art collection.
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Extraordinary pupils project from either side of the nasal bridge of this African mask songye which unfolds at the top in a high flat crest. A rectangular tube forms the mouth. This tribal mask whose volumes helped inspire the cubist artistic movement is streaked with lines encrusted with polychrome pigment. Matte patina, multicolored.
Three types of Kifwebe masks are listed: the masculine (kilume) generally with a high crest, the feminine (kikashi) would present a more modest or even absent crest, 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 way. Their history is inseparable from that of the Luba, to whom they are related through common ancestors. The Songyes created impressive statues with powerful features often used during secret ceremonies, covered with accessories like feathers, skin and a horn full of magical charge. Very present in their society, divination made it possible to discover sorcerers and to shed light on the causes of the misfortunes that struck individuals. Also used by the Luba, worn with a long costume and a long beard made of natural fibers, the Kifwebe masks acted as secret police in favor of power, so as to control individuals through magic. They appeared in in addition to crucial stages of initiation ceremonies.