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Songye Mask

Region: Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire)
Tribe: Songye
Age: Newly made

The Songye used a large number of fetishes and amulets to ensure their success, fertility and wealth and to protect them against hostile forces and diseases. Masks which represent spirits and which are characterised by striations are called kifwebe. The typical kifwebe is male when it has a white crest. It is colourful and is danced during the day. The female mask is mostly white, with a smaller crest and finer stripes. These masks appear either in pairs or in groups. The symbolism of the mask could be that the face is the symbol of power and hallucinatory strength, while the stripes are reminiscent of the antelope. The nose is the vertical axis and the tree of life, while the mouth is the birdís beak or the sorcererís fire. The wearer of the mask has his body entirely hidden under a long skirt of fibers braided into netting. He wears a headdress surmounted by a plume that holds magic materials. The kya ndoshi mask is very powerful and much feared. It is larger than the others and has black and coloured stripes. The combination of the mask, wearer and costume symbolises the cosmic tree that links earth to heaven and the subterranean world to the world of air.

Dimensions: 44x18x11cm