Luba Kifwebe mask
African mask of Luba origin worn as part of the ritual practices of the Bwadi bwa Kifwebe. We find there the characteristic elements of the bifwebe: high stylization, declination in the three dimensions, contrast of the pigments, good balance, extruded mouth,...
Many meanings have been attributed to the stripes of the famous kifwebe masks.
This ranges from the evocation of the porcupine, the zebra, the okapi and other antelopes to the mystical labyrinth of initiation.
These interpretations may be correct, but do not give the basic reason for the existence of these characteristic grooves.
Knowledge of the ancient use of this mask is limited. It was, it seems, a powerful object to which a human sacrifice would have been attached.
The mask would or so - this is only a guess - represent a human skull. Skull or something else, the sculptor found himself in front of a hemispherical volume that had to be covered with kaolin in order to give it the desired whiteness.
However, painting a flat or spherical surface is not the same. If, in addition, low quality binders are taken into account, which are not systematically used by African artists, there will inevitably be a problem of chipping of pigments or a problem of stains.
By making regular notches, which can become close furrows, the paint, which is a diluted powder, will not flow, retained by these gutters.
A solid white surface, even on an in-the-round subject, will be obtained.
From there, a logical mastery of the ridges led the mask to its classic appearance, with its regular grooves.
If the hypothesis of a cranial representation were retained, the black orbits plead in this direction, the acquisition of an advanced mouth and a prominent nose would signify the sensory possibilities of this skull and its ability to use language, the mouth projected forward symbolizing speech.
- Presumed dating
- Circa 1960
- 35 cm (55 cm with support)
- Ethnic group
- Wood, kaolin
- Tribal art collection Belgium
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