Approx: 22.5″ Tall
Origin: The Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa
Ca. Early to Mid 20th Century
Purchased 2010 from a dealer in Australia
Collector’s Note: We like these masks for their inherent geometric pattern and fine attention to detail in carving and decoration. They compliment the and greatly add to the history of geometric abstraction as it pertains to art and art history. Around the collection they sit close to modern works by Pierre Clerk and Ilya Bolotowsky. We face them all towards the doors of the room they are in as part of their power is to be a strong deterrent for evil spirits.
In reality these are very powerful masks, the most powerful for this particular region and time. There are male – distinguished by the large crest at the top of the head, and there are female – distinguished by a smooth head. They are mostly reserved for the shaman or important elder of a tribe or village. When an individual dons the Kifwebe he does not embody the spirit of animal or nature or spirit – he is, quite simply “Kifwebe”. They are thought to ward off evil spirits and highly prized and often passed down for generations.
Typically the holes you see at the bottom of the mask are filled with grasses and fibers to complete an entire-body costume.
A recent Kifwebe mask sold at Christie’s Auction for 1.2 Million USD