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Large kifwebe mask carved with striated designs. The striations are painted in alternating colours, reddish-brown, black and off-white. The eyes, mouth, and nose extend outward, with a large fan-like crest extending back from the nose, between the eyes. The eye lids are semi-circular at top, with a rectangular cutout below. The mouth piece is rectangular, with a square cutout at the end. A neck covering extends down and flares outwards. Many small holes are drilled through at the edge of the mask. The back is red.

History Of Use

Male kifwebe mask used and made by the bwadi bwa kifwebe society (or Bukishi society). The bwadi are a group of mystics that use masks as mediums to harness and display buchi or masende to exercise control over social tensions and retain allegiance to political leaders. Buci, or witchcraft, is an internal force that resides in the heart and stomach; masende, or sorcery, is an external force that rests in the eyes. Buci is an inherited mystical power, while masende is learned and accessible to everyone. These masks have no magical power; the bwadi who wears and uses the mask imbues it with mystical power. Kifwebe masks are traditionally carved around the time a new chief is ritually installed or when the community goes out for hunts. The carvers are called kihanga or kilongo and they traditionally make the masks out of kifwenkese and kicipicipi wood, as they have mystic properties. The masks are made in an uninhabited area, instead of in the village, as the creation of the masks is only for the carver or bwadi bwa kifwebe society members to see. Kifwebe masks can be male or female, and are performed in rituals. Male masks demonstrate and assert power through erratic movements and boisterous displays of strength; female masks emphasize fluid motions and footwork. The male masks generate magical force in relation to disorder and change, whereas the female mask appeals to the goodwill of the ancestral spirits through dance. Female masks, as a result, allow the user to contact ancestral spirits.

Iconographic Meaning

The large protruding crest and popping eyes identify the mask as an exceptionally powerful male kifwebe, as a mask's crest indicates magical skill and experience. The white colour represents light, peace, purity and the moon; the red evokes fire, blood, danger and evil. The colour of the mask also symbolizes whether it is male or female; a dark coloured mask is male and a white mask is female.

Item History

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