Africa

Kifwebe mask
Songye

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Carved wood and pigments
Early 20th century
Height: 15 ¼ in. (38.5 cm)

Ex collection Adrian Schlag, Brussels
Yale University Art Gallery – The Yale-van Rijn Archive of African Art #0063592

Literature: AfriCubisme, 2018

Price: on request

Afrique Centrale
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This type of geometric mask represents the male spirit/ancestor of the Songye.
The style of this mask is highly reminiscent of cubist artworks.
As stated by Alisa LaGamma (the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), “certain masking traditions of the Congo River basin personify local control of mystical power. Striated face masks known as Kifwebe probably originated in North Shaba, an area inhabited by both Songye and Luba groups. Among the small Songye chiefdoms along the Lomami River, maskers were emissaries of the ruling elite, who relied on the ideology of witchcraft and sorcery to sustain their rule. These Kifwebe members commanded a body of esoteric secret knowledge visually encoded mnemonically in the mask's features. Hierarchical distinctions between a single female mask and an unlimited number of male masks are reflected in color and in sculptural features”.