Magnificent Kifwebe Masculin Mask

Height 70 cm.

SONGYE “Kifwebé” mask (Dem. Rep. of Congo). Mask of an exaggeratedly abstract shape, the forehead overhung by a pronounced central ridge leading to the triangular nose, mouth in the shape of a rectangular orifice projecting forwards, surface entirely scarified with parallel lines covered alternately with red, black, and white pigments. Areas of wear, breakage, regluing. The power of the Songye chiefdoms is based on two secret societies: The “Basha Masende” which practices witchcraft and the “Bwadi Bwa Kifwébé” whose power is based on the use of ritual masks. The term Kifwebé means “mask” and corresponds to three types of masks: female “Kikashi” mask without crest, male “Kilume” mask and male “Kia Ndosi” mask with an imposing crest. These masks embodying the spirits of the deceased and the beings of mystery appear in pairs during parties, initiations, and funerals.

According to Neyt (2004: 361 et seq.) the iconography of Songye kifwebe masks is highly symbolic and contains numerous references to Songye mythology and cosmology. The deep striations painted with various colors recall the metaphysical labyrinth the initiates have to stride during their initiation. The kifwebe mask from the Philippe Barril Collection is distinguished by its great age and archaic style.

Origin: -Reportedly collected before 1990 in the Belgian Congo

Mr. Philippe Barril, Paris, Paris. Acquired in 1980’s.

Bibliography: For similar Kia Ndosi masks: – Sotheby’s Paris sale, April 16, 2003, no. 144. – Sotheby’s New York sale, Stone Collection, May 16, 2014, no. 80. – MOMA New York, W. Rubin, Primitivism in 20th century art, p.265. – Collection J. W. Mestach, Brussels.


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