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Kifwebe, Kabinda regional style, Songye, Democratic Republic of Congo (D.R.C.), 20th c.

22”, Wood with pigment, Market piece

Gift of lee and Ada Bronson

CAT 2003 LB 6

The Songye reside in the central savannah and forest-covered region of the D.R.C. In the 16th century they migrated from the southern Shaba area and settled on the left bank of the Lualaba River. The Lualaba and other rivers in the region are associated with the spirits of ancestors.  The Kifwebe represents one of these spirits that protects society by warding off various threats that could harm the community. There are more than 30 types of Kifwebe that can be either male or female, however only men where the mask. These men police society and scare away an visible or invisible threats to the community. This particular Kifwebe shows features of a female mask. The female Kifwebe is typically painted white without a crest. Their features embody beauty and serenity. Female masks are associated with the moon and have a direct connection with ancestral spirits. They are responsible for procreation and ensure the security of future generations. The female masquerade is a delicate and calm performance, embodying the characteristics of femininity. The Kifwebe is word during moon rituals, funerals and initiation rights. 

Source: Hersak, Dunja. "Further Perspectives on Kifwebe Masquerades", in: African Arts: Spring 2020 Vol. 53 No. 1.

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