Female Kifwebe Mask--Painting of an African Mask
Songye People, Kifwebe Brotherhood, Democratic Republic of Congo
Bwadi bra Kifwebe is a secret society of mask men. In the community, these men were known for their use of magic ( Buki or Buchi) and sorcery (Masende). Buki and Masende magic differs from witchcraft, these types of magic are inherited and or obtained either by will or unconsciously. Witchcraft in contrast can be obtained through initiation and at the appropriate use of magical ingredients. In order to be come a member of the Bwadi bra Kifwebe, all applicants must under an initiation process. During this process, initiates must learn and identify secret esoteric language. They must undergo a radical and violent experience in order to become less fearful of the unknown and learn their roles within the subject to Bwadi bra Kifwebe. Some of the responsibilities of the Bwadi bra Kifwebe are regulating and maintaining political order and balance between the chief and his communities. The Bwadi bra Kifwebe maintain balance within the community by conducting masquerades, rituals and rites such as initiation rituals, circumcisions and funerals.
The overall appearance of a masquerader varies on the dancer, the type of ceremony they're performing in, and spirit being evoked. Normally Masqueraders have a wooden mask and are covered head to toe in flowing black Raffia fibers made from the bark or roots of trees. Their arms, bodies and legs are covered with raffia netting, with goat skins fastened around their waist.The dancers are male and the complexity of their costume varies on their status within the community. When the dancer is wearing a male mask his movements are aggressive and unstable, however when a dancer wears a female mask his movements are gentle and controlled. The dances of the kifwebe dancers are meant to encourage social conformity within the community showing its people how one should behave in their society.
One in a series of eleven paintings inspired by tribal African Masks in museums and private collections. They were in use during the 19th and early 20th centuries.