Female Kifwebe mask from the Songye

Congo area
Congo area

Q:  I found this with a collection of 30 or so other masks at a yard sale. The seller said they were “very old” and had come from Sudan. Some of the other masks have a distinct smoke odor (but not this mask). Measures approximately 16.5″ x 13″ x 7″   Rebecca, 790

A:  The grooved pattern on the face of the mask is a common characteristic of a female Kifwebe mask from the Songye tribe of the Democratic Republic of Congo. They use this type of masks during ceremonies of initiation, divination, healing, and at funeral processions. You can read that when certain individuals of the Kifwebe society wear the mask along with the costume and raffia beard, they gain magical powers. These distinctive masks are very popular with collectors so lots of reproductions are made. This one is a little different from what we usually see and may have been produced outside the DRC.  C

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