Kifwebe Mask Analysis

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“The Art of Disguise: Cultural Masks from the Art Museum Collection”, an exhibition hosted by the University of Wyoming Art Museum, features many sacred and decorative masks from non-Western cultures including Papua New Guinea, South America and Africa. Among the masks displayed is the Kifwebe Female Mask from the Finley Collection. The mask was created by the Songye (or Songe) people who originate from the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly known as Zaire.1 The Kifwebe mask is an element which plays a vital to the society and symbolizes peace, strength, healing and social equilibrium. This visually compelling mask is roughly two feet tall and is somewhat conical in shape with a large, semicircular top and a concave, cylindrical base. The mask is made from carved wood and is surfaced in black and white pigment. The eyes are large, black, almond shapes with a slit running horizontally through the centers. A black strip of carved wood comes vertically down the center of the mask and terminates at the midpoint of the face to form the nose. The mouth protrudes in a square shape with a hollow center. These isolated facial elements are black. Schmalenbach describes this stylistic element, “Facial features… are…show more content…
The Bwadi bwa Kifwebe is a secret society strong in the eastern Songye territory.1 The society evolved to practicing masquerades and dancing as a part of the service that they provided the community. The masquerades served as a channel to call upon the spirits to act in the service of the community. The Kifwebe masks represented a sacred element in the Songye masquerading practice. The masquerade was sacred and ritualistic as opposed to theatrical and secular. There are two main purposes for the ceremonial Kifwebe masked dancing; the first is the transition of a new tribal chief and the second is in the moonlight ceremonies of lunar

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