African Tribal SONGYE Kifwebe War mask.Date: Third quarter of the 20th Century.Origin: SONGYE. Democratic Republic of the Congo.Material: Wood, black and white kaolin. Size: Height 46 cm. Width 21 cm. Depth 29 cm. Striated face masks known as kifwebe probably originated in North Shaba, an area inhabited by both Songye and Luba groups. Significant departures in the role and formal interpretation of this art form subsequently developed in each culture. 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.
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