This page is a record of an exhibit that took place
in 1995. The individual links below will take you to
the CURRENT VERSION of the pages
that formed part of that exhibit.

Songye & Luba Sculpture
June 3 - July 29, 1995

Songye & Luba Sculpture compares and contrasts traditional work of two neighboring peoples of Zaire, with strong and varied collections of masks, stools and fetishes. Songye Kifwebe masks, known for their distinctive exaggerated forms and aggressive strength, are well represented. The striated facial forms are dynamic, with projecting mouths, noses and crests symbolizing the level of power, or grade of the masked figure. Used by the secret men's society for social control and protectin, they were danced at important funerals, visits and investitures. Female masks, more restrained and elegant, are usually painted white and lack the crest found on male Kifwebes.

Luba masks, called Bifwebe, are usually round, but share the striations and wonderful abstractions of Songye masks. Several of our masks include raffia or full fiber headdresses. The Luba are also well known for their stools and headrests, prestige objects commonly using female caryatid figures depicting founding ancestors that literally and figuratively provide support. The elaborate cascading coiffures and scarification patterns attest to the high rank of both the subject and the owner of the object.

The Songye also made fetish figures, Nkisi; large ones owned by the community and small ones for individuals. Adorned with additional objects, Bajimba, with magical properties (horns, skins, teeth, hair, feathers, beads, tacks, cloth, etc.), they promoted success and fertility and protected against evil. They gained their power not fom the carver but from the Nganga, or spiritual leader. Often too powerful to touch, they were moved with long sticks. We are happy to have a large selection of wonderful masks, stools, figures and other artifacts for this exhibition.

Photograph © John Urban


 Index by

 Index by