Kifwebe Society Mask

16758722-2003_073_001_Fpa_ARC.tif

Title

Kifwebe Society Mask

Keywords

Ceremonial costume, effigy, mask, sculpture

Date

20th Century

Context

Central Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Songye

Medium/Dimensions

Wood, pigment
26 x 10 x 8 1/4 in. (66 x 25.4 x 21 cm)

Object Number

2003.073.001

Description

In combining the attributes of several animals, this mask embodies the supernatural, dangerous qualities of the Kifwebe society. This society uses magic and fear to reinforce the political will of rulers. Striations on the mask's face resemble the stripes of zebras, which the Songye consider dangerous because they are foreign to the region. Other animals capable of inflicting fatal wounds are also represented to command fear in spectators. The chin denotes the jaw of a crocodile, while hairs signifying porcupine needles originally protruded form the mask's nose. A raffia beard symbolizing a lion's mane would also have been attached to the mask's rim.

Kifwebe literally means "chases death away". Masks are danced in pairs at the death of a chief or when someone assumes an important political title, thus marking occasions of social transition and transformation. Kifwebe masks originated with the neighboring Songye in southeastern Congo, and Luba Kifwebe masks are strongly influenced by them. Associations of Luba and Hemba dancers are credited with the spread of this popular mask type. The dancer's costume is made of fibrous material and animal skins.

Credit Line

Museum purchase

Exhibits/Publications

MCCM Permanent Collection Reinstallation, 2008 - December 1, 2014

Rights

© Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. Photo by Bruce M. White, 2011.
This image is provided by the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University, who retains all rights in it. This image is made available for limited non-commercial, educational, and personal use only, or for fair use as defined by United States law. For all other uses, please contact the Michael C. Carlos Museum Office of Collections Services at +1(404) 727-4282 or mccm.collections.services@emory.edu. Users must cite the author and source of the image as they would material from any printed work, but not in any way that implies endorsement of the user or the user's use of the image. Users may not remove any copyright, trademark, or other proprietary notices, including without limitation attribution information, credits, and copyright notices that have been placed on or near the image by the Museum. The Museum assumes no responsibility for royalties or fees claimed by the artist or third parties. The User agrees to indemnify and hold harmless Emory University, its Michael C. Carlos Museum, its agents, employees, faculty members, students and trustees from and against any and all claims, losses, actions, damages, expenses, and all other liabilities, including but not limited to attorney’s fees, directly or indirectly arising out of or resulting from its use of photographic images for which permission is granted hereunder.

On View

No

Citation

“Kifwebe Society Mask,” Michael C. Carlos Museum Collections Online, accessed September 25, 2017, http://carlos.digitalscholarship.emory.edu/items/show/7150.

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