Large Female Songye Kifwebe Carved Ceremonial Wooden Mask

Large Female Songye Kifwebe Carved Ceremonial Wooden Mask

Large Female Songye Kifwebe Carved Ceremonial Wooden Mask

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About this item

A large female songye kifwebe carved wooden ceremonial mask. The wooden mask is carved with geometric lines on the face and head which are whitened with pigment and darkened on the large ridged nose, mouth and eyes. Around the back edge are the holes which would have originally had the raffia webbing which blended with the rest of the costume during ceremonial dances. Mounted on a bespoke black museum stand.
In the songye language, a mask is a kifwebe: this term has been given to masks representing spirits and characterised by striations. Worn by both men and women, the masks are paired with woven raffia costumes in dances at various ceremonies.
For the songye, white symbolises goodness, purity, health, reproductive strength, joy, peace, wisdom and beauty. The colour is associated most commonly with the moon, the light, and daytime.
Songye kifwebe masks were first collected in the 1900s by the pioneering artists of modernism, who were captivated by their bold, graphic style. Then in the 1920s, the surrealists — motivated by freudian ideas of the uncanny — became fascinated by the dream-like qualities of the masks.
Artists like picasso and modigliani were avid collectors and these influences can be found in their work. See below a photograph of a young picasso in his studio surrounded by his tribal art collection.
Many believe the lines of the mask create an optical illusion that can be hypnotic, pre-dating the experiments of the op art movement in the 1960s pioneered by artists such as bridget riley and victor vasarely.
Good. This is an old mask used in tribal ceremonies and has wear consistent with age and use. There is some cracking on the pigment at the top of the head down the centre and a small chip on the lower left hand side, but no crack or damage to the mask.


W27.0 x H70.0 x D18.0 cm



Wear condition


Date of manufacture


Place of origin



Mid 20th Century


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Seller is VAT registered


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