221242 - African Songye mask - Congo.
Expressive African male bird mask from the 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: 32 cm.
During the 16th century, the Songye migrated from the Shaba area, which is now the southern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Their history is closely linked to the Luba's, to whom the Songye are related through common ancestors. Having waged war against one another for a long time, the Songye and Luba later formed an alliance to fight the Arabs. They settled on the left bank of the Lualaba River, on a savanna and forest-covered plateau. Divided into many subgroups, the 150,000 Songye people are governed by a central chief assisted by innumerable secret societies.
The Songye traditionally relied mostly on farming and hunting for subsistence. Because the rivers were associated with the spirits of deceased chiefs who were often buried in them, fishing was not practiced except in times of great need. The artistic wares of the Songye, including pottery made by women and weaving and metalworking done by men, were traded extensively with their neighbors.