MSSU African Art Exibit : The MSSU African Art collection features a variety of authentic works of art from various tribes located throughout Central Africa. The objects in the collection range from mundane day to day grooming tools to ritualistic masks and statues.
Male Kifwebe Figure Shield
Object Name:
Shield, Wood, Kifwebe
Other Name:
Shield, Wood, Bwadi Bwa Kifwebe
Place of Origin:
Songye, Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa
Aboriginal Indigenous Art.
H = 29"
W = 15"
D = 5"

Kifwebe masks were made for the Bwadi Bwa Kifwebe association, a type of policing society that provided a means of controlling social behavior and neutralizing disruptive elements within the group. These masks appeared at the installation and death of a chief, and at the initiation rites of young men as well as a whole range of occasions that included punishments, warfare and public works. There is great variety and symbolism within the various Kifwebe masks. More than thirty different mask names have been recorded. Several have animal names while other masks have names of illnesses like leprosy or names denoting natural phenomena. For the most part Kifwebe masks no longer function to maintain social control among the Songye except in the southeastern regions bordering on Luba territory.

Songye origins are shared with the Luba through a common mythical Songye ancestor known as Kongolo, who can be traced through lineages to the 16th century. The linguistic traditions of these neighboring peoples are intertwined as well. It is believed that the founders of the Songye emerged from the lake region in Shaba province to the south in the heart of the Luba homeland. The Lomani River divides Songye territory and marks the boundary of the areas invaded by the Luba. As a result of these geographic and political differences there emerged two distinct social structures among the eastern and western Songye and two stylistic differences in art forms between the two areas.

Large wooden, oval/hourglass—shaped shield. Adorned with a male Kifwebe style, central mask. Protruding wedge—shaped nose, leading into a male central crest, extending to top of forehead. Thin crescent—shaped eyes, protruding U—shaped mouth with visible teeth. Horizontal grooves covering entire face. Horizontal and vertical, linear and criss—cross grooves, covering entire shield area. Long crack running down entire left side of shield. Stiched or repaired with wicker—like substance. Wooden handle carved into center back of shield.
Guy Mace Collection, (Turblex Company)
Wood W/Patina and Raffia
Ritually Used
Carving / Painting / Weaving
Art Department, MSSU
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Front View, Close-UpFront View, Close-Up
Rear ViewRear View