Africa

The Songye Kifwebe mask

aaaMystrySolvd-916aQ:  I bought this male Songye Kifwebe mask a month ago from a seller in Brussels. It is a huge mask of this type. At least the biggest I’ve ever seen: 77cmX31cmX51cm, W: 3,4kg. Are this big masks used in rituals, festivals? How old do you think it is? Thanks.  Ricardo, 916

A:  The Sonye people come from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Early accounts of their Kifwebe classified them as fetishes that function as caretakers.  It is evident that the Kifwebe is a powerful social instrument probably associated with healing and rituals of mystical and transformational control. This highly abstracted design resembles nothing one would see in the real world. The submitted photo doesn’t show the exciting design very well so I’m including a second picture from our book, Masks of the World. It is highly unlikely that the piece is old and used, but you might want to visit someone who is a expert on African traditional art.aaaMystrySolvd-916b

One Comment

  • Marc DUBOIS

    It is maybe a detail …but the mouth of the mask has been simply drilled and not carefully carved. In my opinion, it would mean that the mask has been quickly made… for the market.
    However, it is difficult to make an opinion with only one picture.
    As I’m living in Brussels (Belgium), I would be interested to have the name of your dealer !

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