N5S7M892.jpg (33886 bytes)Kifwebe male mask. The 150,000 Songye live in the southeast of the country. The Songye traditionally relied mostly on farming and hunting for subsistence. Because the rivers were associated with the spirits of deceased chiefs who were often buried in them, fishing was not practiced except in times of great need. In the Songye language, a mask is a kifwebe; this term has been given to masks representing spirits. The kifwebe society used them to ward off disaster or any threat. The mask had also the capacity to heal by means of the supernatural force it was supposed to incorporate. The masks, supplemented by a woven costume and a long beard of raffia bast, dance at various ceremonies. Mask, colors, and costume all have symbolic meaning. The use of white on the mask symbolizes positive concepts such as purity and peace, the moon and light. Red is associated with blood and fire, courage and fortitude, but also with danger and evil. The dancer who wears the male mask will display aggressive and uncontrolled behavior with the aim of encouraging social conformity, whereas the dancer who wears the female mask display more gentle and controlled movements and is assumed to be associated with reproduction ceremonies. The female mask distinguishes from the male one by the absence of a crest on top of the head.  

Material:  wood, vegetable fiber, feathers

Size:  H. 25”, W. 11”, D. 15”

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