The African Kifwebe Mask Of The Songye People by aihaozhe2


The Songye tribe is located in the southeastern region of the Democratic Republic of
the Congo. The history of the Songye tribe is closely related and intertwined with the
neighboring Luba tribe, whom the Songye are related to through common ancestors.
For the Songye, the mask was and still is an integral part of their culture used in
religious, social and magical rituals. Each mask has a story to tell and plays a
significant part in African tradition.

The Songye society used their masks to ward off disaster or any threat. It was also
worn at ceremonies honoring a dead chief, at the installation of a new chief, at the
welcoming of important visitors to the village, at the initiation rites of young men and
a whole variety of other important events.

The most well known and highly sought after mask of the Songye tribe is known as
the Kifwebe mask. These masks are typically associated with abstract shapes as well
as beautiful textured lines and linear scarifications. The lines are usually painted with
alternating black and white stripes, which give an almost hallucinating effect.
Kifwebe masks can be male or female, with crested comb structures identifying male
masks, the higher the crest, the more powerful the mask as well as the greater the
spiritual power of the dancer.

Male and female masks are danced together, with each dancer encouraging the desired
qualities of the sexes. The male dancers, adorned with their high-crested Kifwebe and
bodies hidden by straw, display aggressive and typically uncontrolled behavior to help
encourage social conformity. Their masks usually have wider stripes than the females,
as well as bolder colors. The dancers wearing female masks perform more gently and
even seductively, in a display linked to fertility. The Female Kifwebe masks are
usually less aggressive, less colorful and typically portray more of a round or oval
theme. Female masks essentially reflect positive forces and appear principally in
dances held at night, such as during lunar ceremonies or at the death of a ruler.

The Songye Kifwebe masks are a striking representation of African art, and would
complement any African dcor collection.

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