The Luba attribute the origins of the kifwebesociety to three spirits, which emerged from a ditch near a lake. The female spirit was attracted by humans and went to live among them. The two male spirits stayed in the bush, but visited the village where they dazzled the inhabitants with their dancing to the point where the men begged to be initiated. The grooves marking the surface of kifwebe refer to the ditch from which the founding spirits emerged. The masks therefore are marked with signs of the portal to the other world. During the first two decades of the twentieth century, thekifwebe masking tradition spread throughout the Luba and Songye regions of southwest DRC. They were worn in male/female pairs for royal ceremonies, on the night of the new moon when ancestors are honored, during initiation and funeral ceremonies, and when a person assumed an important political title. They also are perceived as having healing abilities. These masks were worn with a raffia costume. Examples of the round kifwebe masks entered European collections by the second half of the nineteenth century. Femalekifwebe masks differ by smaller crests or even by lack of them.
Provenance: Raskin Private Collection