Songye Mask, D.R. Congo
D:11" W:8" H:26"
In the Songye language, a mask is a kifwebe: this term has been given to masks representing spirits and characterized by striations. The kifwebe masks embodied supernatural forces. The kifwebe society used them to ward off disaster or any threat. The masks, supplemented by a woven costume and a long beard of raffia bast, dance at various ceremonies. They are worn by men who act as police at the behest of a ruler, or to intimidate the enemy. This particular mask is a masculine mask, as it was carved with a central crest. Mask, colors, and costume all have symbolic meaning. The dancer who wears the male mask will display aggressive and uncontrolled behavior with the aim of encouraging social conformity, whereas the dancer who wears the female mask display more gentle and controlled movements and is assumed to be associated with reproduction ceremonies. The use of white on the mask symbolizes positive concepts such as purity and peace, the moon and light. The mask had also the capacity to heal by means of the supernatural force it was supposed to incorporate.
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