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Mask (Kifwebe)

Date:
19th–20th century
Geography:
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Culture:
Songye peoples
Medium:
Wood, pigment
Dimensions:
H.17 11/16 x W. 7 1/4 x D. 8 in. (45 x 18.4 x 20.3 cm)
Classification:
Wood-Sculpture
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1965
Accession Number:
1978.412.456
Not on view
Certain masking traditions of the Congo River basin personify local control of mystical power. Striated face masks known as kifwebe probably originated in North Shaba, an area inhabited by both Songye and Luba groups. Significant departures in the role and formal interpretation of this art form subsequently developed in each culture. Among the small Songye chiefdoms along the Lomami River, maskers were emissaries of the ruling elite, who relied on the ideology of witchcraft and sorcery to sustain their rule. These kifwebe members commanded a body of esoteric secret knowledge visually encoded mnemonically in the mask's features.
[Henri Kamer, Paris and New York, until 1962]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1962–1965; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1965–1978

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