Songye Kifwebe Mask – Kikashi
Country: DR Congo.
Date: first half of the 20th century.
Medium: wood, kaolin.
Size: h. 44 cm (17 ¼ in.).
ex collection Hendrik (Rik) Elias (1925-2014), Wieze, Belgium.
ex Michel Koenig Galerie, Brussels.
Hendrik Elias was one of the first individuals to have earned a master's degree in African art history at Ghent University. His thesis on the art of the Songye was overseen by Frans Olbrechts. Soon after he contributed a number of important pieces to the collection of the Musée Royal de l'Afrique Centrale in Tervuren. A dealer in top-quality African art, for many he was also an ongoing source of information on the subject. He was an important figure in the early Brussels art scene and works that passed through his hands became part of great and famous collections, such as those of Willy Mestach, Jef Van der Straete, and René and Odette Delenne, among many others.
“Hendrik Elias’ legacy”, author Jo de Buck.
Literature: for a similar example “Kifwebe, a century of Songye and Luba masks”, François Neyt assisted by Anne-Chantal Olbrechts about the collection Woods Davy, p. 165, pl. 84.
Extra: Female mask, Kikashi. Eastern Songye.
The territory of the eastern Songye, residing to the east of Kalebwe, is composed of small chiefdoms and stretches from northeast of Tshofa and Lubao, near Kusu country, southwards along the middle stretch of the Lomami river towards Kongolo in the direction of the Lualaba river.
The female Bikashi masks of the Eastern Songye express their forces and powers in the modelled and curved plane of the cheeks and their striations. Their slit, black-rimmed eyes are carefully observant. The rapport between white, expressing serenity, and the darker and more aggressive tones illustrates the discernment particular to the female world.
This mask has a semi-spherical head and is an expression of force and power. It places emphasis on the black paint of the centerline and the upper eyelids. The projecting star-shaped mouth is extended by a smooth black triangle down to the chin in which one row of holes have been pierced.
Photo credit: © Jean Godecharle.
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