Exhibitions/ Art Object

Mask (Kifwebe)

19th - early 20th century (before 1919)
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Songye peoples
Wood, white pigment
H. x W.:14 3/4 x 9 1/2 in. (37.5 x 24.1 cm)
Credit Line:
The University of Pennsylvania Museum, Philadelphia
Not on view
Kifwebe masks played a central role in Songye society enacting control over the social order, and participating in crucial activities such as initiations. This face mask only formed part of a costume ensemble that also included a hood, shirt, and pants made of woven bark, completed by diverse implementsin animal skins, furs, and feathers. Like most masks in Western collections, this example was separated from the rest of the costume following its collection from Africa. Once removed from its original context, it no longer formed part of a kinetic and multisensory environment but was admired as a static object of strong graphic qualities, particularly its contrasting white and black striations, stylized features, and overall sense of balance.
Charles Vignier, Paris, before 1919; Marius de Zayas, New York, 1919