TITLE: Songye Kifwebe Kilume
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Democratic Republic of the Congo
DESCRIPTION: Bwadi Society Kifwebe Kilume Mask
CEREMONY: Bwadi Bwa Kifwebe Society
FUNCTION: Adult Initiation; Secret Society; Social Control; Social Status; War Preparation
AGE: ca. 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin clay; animal hair
Among the Songye and Luba peoples of central Africa, the Bwadi Bwa Kifwebe Society commands high status, because its members are considered to have magical powers to invoke spirits. Among the masks used by the Kifwebe Society is the Kilume (male) mask here. Kilume masks are danced with a suit of mesh and a long mantle of raffia fiber. The masqueraders were used primarily to enforce social norms, to intimidate enemies in war, to attend male circumcisions, and at bukishi initiations teaching social and religious principles. Today, they exist primarily to preserve tradition and provide entertainment.
The dance of the male Kifwebe masquerader is erratic and energetic, reflecting the intimidating policing role played by this part of the Society.