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Tribal art > African mask > Songye Mask

Songye Mask (N° 16351)

This mask with an imprecative function, streaked with bleached grooves, would be feminine. The different areas of this type of mask (including the beard, the costume and the body of the wearer) attach a particular symbolism: the mouth for example would embody the beak of a bird and the fire of the sorcerer. The mask is always fitted with its plant fiber sill.
Filmed matte patina, red and black ochre highlights. br-
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 leaders. The secret society Bwami however, counterbalances their power. Their male masks, with occult powers, were displayed during punitive and disciplinary expeditions. Their appearances remained linked to divinatory and socio-political objectives. Three types of African art mask "Kifwebe" (or songye mask) are listed: the masculine (kilume) usually with a high crest, the feminine (kikashi) would have a more modest or absent crest, and finally the largest embodying power (kia ndoshi). The Songye sculptor had a high status within the society bwadi and also produced various objects of pageantry, but also of daily use, cups, mortars, canes, etc. Also practiced by the Luba, the cult bwadi bwa kifwebe ("masque" in songye) acted as a secret police in favor of power, so as to control individuals through magic. Worn with a suit and a long beard made of natural fibres, Kifwebe masks also appeared during crucial stages of the initiation ceremonies at the new moon. The novice had to pass between the legs of the masked initiator of the male kifwebe. A coded language used by society was then taught to him. Each of the kifwebe's lodges could not have more than seven masks, a symbolic number among the Songye.
"Initiés, Congo Basin" ed. Dapper Museum; "The African Art" ed. Mazenod.  

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Origincollection belge
EthnySongye
CountryRDC
Material(s)wood, plant fibre
Height cm40
Depth26 cm
Width20 cm
Weight1.50 Kg
Estimated dating1ère halfxx°
Socle includedYes

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