Mask (Kifwebe)

Wood carved face with geometric, pseudo-human facial features, grooved, bilaterial striations of surface, protruding, square pursed mouth and horizontal slit eyes with protruding eyebrows. Faint traces of white kaolin in grooves; a flat wooden crest extends from the nose along the curve of the forehead, terminating in feathered headdress; thick raffia fiber beard attached around face. mask shows much wear with nicks and scraptes on wood surface; feathered headdress and fiber beard are brittle.
Artist Unknown, African, Luba or Songye Peoples Democratic Republic of the Congo
c. 1940
Kifwebe masks were danced by men's secret associations (bwadi bwa kifwebe) once active in Luba and Songye communities of the DRC. The mystical, transformative powers embodied in these masks were used as a form of social control, aiding in the collection and redistribution of wealth, and in judicial affairs. Masks were also danced at the funerals of chiefs and dignitaries, to honor ancestors, and in some regions, to dispel malevolent occult forces. There are male and female types. UMMA mask is female. Female masks were thought to enhance fertility and assure smooth transitions in the cycle of life.
Gift of Candis and Helmut Stern
Sunday, August 14, 2022