220440 - Tribal used African Tempa or Songye mask - Congo.


Expressive african male mask from the Tempa or Songye, Congo, with extremely abstract face.

This type of mask serves the Kifwebe secret society and embodies a protecting spirit.

Hand carved from a single piece of wood.

Size: 38 cm.

The Tempa or Songye people, sometimes written Songe, are a Bantu ethnic group from the central Democratic Republic of the Congo. They inhabit a vast territory between the Sankuru and Lubilash rivers in the west and the Lualaba River in the east. Many Songye villages can be found in present-day East Kasai province, parts of Katanga and Kivu Province. The people of Songye are divided into thirty-four conglomerate societies; each society is led by a single chief with a Judiciary Council of elders and nobles (bilolo). Smaller kingdoms east of the Lomami River refer to themselves as Songye, other kingdoms in the west, refer to themselves as Kalebwe, Eki, Ilande, Bala, Chofwe, Sanga and Tempa. As a society, the people of Songye are mainly known as a farming community; they do, however, take part in hunting and trading with other neighboring communities.

The origin of the Songye begins when its founding ancestors Chimbale and Kongolo established the Kingdom of Luba. Chimbale and Kongolo played an important role in establishing the foundation of Luba's political empire. After suffering from political dissension, the ancestors of Songye migrated out of the Luba Empire. The Songye honor their ancestors and cultural heroes through a series of different practices and occasions. In Songye culture, it is believed that the chiefs are sacred heirs of their ancestors and of the founding cultural hero. Hunting was an occupation associated with cultural heroes: Chiefs would organize hunting of animals to showcase the power that was imbued in him by the cultural hero he was honoring. Blacksmithing was another craft that was associated with their heroes. Their smiths were reputed for their production of arms; their axes were used by Luba, and some were found in the ruins of Khami in Rhodesia

The people of Songye believe in a supreme being Ele-ife, however, he is not praised as much as ancestral spirits. Ancestral worship is very prevalent within Songye culture, it is believed that the spirit of their ancestors is more accessible to them due to their shared experience of being alive. As a result of this, these spirits have a connection to both the land of the living and the dead and are able to enact their will on the community.