Songye Kifwebe association figures, Democratic Republic of the Congo
wood, leather, raffia fiber, feathers, pigment
25 3/4" (L) and 17" (R) tall

"All Songye masks are worn by initiated men who are members of the Kifwebe association. The mask is just a
part of the overall costume that is worn in performance. The overall costume consists of blackened fiber strips
attached to a row of holes on the bottom of the mask, a conical fiber woven projection coming out from the back
of the head that usually has feathers at the end and a fiber netting that is attached to the back of the mask that
drapes over the wearer's head and shoulders. The masquerader also wears a fiber-netting shirt and pants with
an animal pelt worn around the waist. Inside the mask or netting a medicine pouch is attached to give power to
the mask and the dancer carries a forked tree branch, a stick or staff or sometimes a long knife or spear.

During the first period of initiation, young Kifwebe association initiates are taught some of the esoteric information
about all of the components of the mask, as well as the meaning of the accompanying dance steps, music and

They are taught through tales, proverbs, song, myths and the use of small didactic figures depicting the
mask-wearer in full costume." - Beauty and the Beasts: Kifwebe and Animal Masks of the Songye, Luba and
Related Peoples by Marc Leo Felix

Additional information and examples of these figures can also be found in the Spring 2008 issue of Tribal Art
Magazine, pages 102-112.

Click on any image on the page to see high resolution version.
A photo of a Songye Kifwebe masked performer in full costume.