Songye Kifwebe Kilume mask
  • Songye Kifwebe Kilume mask
  • African mask from Congo

Songye Kifwebe Kilume mask

The bifwebe masks (sing. kifwebe) of Songye African art belong to the bwadi bwa kifwebe association, a male initiation society. The one is masculine therefore kilume. It comes from the Eastern Basongye.

The members of this association were reputed to possess the powers of wizards; they exercised social and political control over the population in order to maintain the status of political elite, but also to prevent any abuse of power by the chiefs.

Unlike entertainment masks, they imposed their authority with their own intimidating presence, reinforced by the wooden sticks they wielded.

In the past, these masks were present at many important events, such as the enthronement and funeral ceremonies of chiefs, the burial of members of their association and the initiation of young boys.

The male specimens are polychrome and present a sagittal crest, like the specimen that I propose to you here.

The colors are black, red and white.

Very large sagittal crests decorate masks believed to be "seniors"; they are also the most powerful, since the strength of the kifwebe mask would reside in the crest.

In some Songye Kalebwe chiefdoms, west of Lomami, it seems that a male kifwebe kilume mask maintained order within the confines of the bukishi, an important initiation ritual that fell out of favor around the middle of the 20th century.

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Data sheet

Presumed dating
Mid XXth century
53 cm (72 cm with support)
Ethnic group
Songye / Basongye
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Tribal art collection Belgium

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