SONGYE MASKS 9, Dem. Rep. CONGO
Photographs © Tim Hamill
SONGYE MASK 9, 21.5" mask, 28" with raffia,
$1200, Democratic Republic of Congo
Male Bukishi associations, clouded in secrecy, yielded political
and mystical power revealed through their masks, known as Kifwebe
(singular) and Bifwebe (plural). Female masks, primarily white, are
restrained and elegant with striated surfaces. Their function was to awaken
and honor benevolent spirits.
Male masks are known for their distinctive exaggerated forms.
Aggressively formed with bulging eyes, projecting mouths and powerful crests,
the masks of elders embody the greatest potential and strength. The dynamic
forms symbolize the level of power, or grade of the masked figure. Used
for social control, political action, or the solicitation of contributions
and protection, they were danced at important funerals, visits and investitures.
Many of the masks include raffia or full fiber headdresses.
NOTE about stands: Some masks are mounted (square bases, thin vertical rod).
The stands used are included in the price if desired. Others are placed
temporarily on stands (round bases, thick vertical rod) which are not included.
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