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Parent Record
No. 101
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Publication: 1913. Colle, Pierre. Les Baluba (Congo Belge), Vol. II.

Original language: French

Caption translation:

Sorcerer Dancer (Kifwele mask)


Sorcier danseur (masque Kifwele)

Text translation:

"Uruwa country is truly, for all the neighboring peoples, the classic land of sorcerors. The great communal ceremony is the occasion of the new moon. Upon the moon's appearance, all the Uruwa dance in its honor; and please God that these dances be exempt from immorality. It's the day of forced repose." (p. 511)


“Le pays d’Uruwa est vraiment pour toutes les peuplades voisines, la terre classique des sorciers. La grande cérémonie commune est la néoménie. A l’apparition de la lune, tout l’Uruwa danse en son honneur; et plut à Dieu que ces danses fussent toujours exemptes d’immoralité. C’est le jour de repos forcé.” (p. 511)

Illustrator: Reverand-Father Colle
Illustration technique: b/w field photograph; cropped

Publication page: endplate

Publication plate/figure: plate XII; top right

Related images: For earlier (ie 1910) image of another round Luba mask see #564

• Congo-Kinshasa (Country, region, place)
• pigment (Materials and techniques)
• raffia (Materials and techniques)
• wood (Materials and techniques)
• masquerade costume (Notable features)
• striated (Notable features)
• kifwebe (Object name, type)
• mask (Object name, type)
• Luba-Shaba (Style, culture group)

• Collected by the Reverand-Father Colle prior to 1913 (Collection at time of publication)
• Seattle Art Museum; donated by Katherine White and Boeing Company ( 81.17.869); ex-collection Peres Blancs D'Afrique, Antwerp. (Current collection)

Susan Kart, (4/10/2004): Colle's general descriptions can't be matched to specific objects seen in end plates. This illustration appears in Petridis 1993 ("Face of the Spirits") captioned: "Eastern Luba (Shaba). Kifwebe mask in Kifwamba (Soswa chiefdom) p.158." See also in Neyt 1994 ("Luba") p203, captioned: "Middle Luvua Workshop, Kiambi. Mask. Wood, pigments. Height 44 cm. Collected before 1913..." See Collection information.

Jim Ross, (12/29/2008): It also appears in Spirits Speak. A Celebration Of African Masks by Peter Stepan with catalogue entries by Iris Hahner (2005) Pl. 111 and additional information set forth on p178.

Jim Ross, (7/14/2010):

Appears is figs 1 & 2 (the latter b eing a full-page color illustration) on pp2&3 of Julien Volper's "Pour Qu-En Bas On L'Entende - Les masques ronds striés des Luba orientaux" (2010). The caption for fig 1 says, in part "Hauteur 44 cm Largeur 42 cm Matériaux: bois, pigments barbe de fibres noires, cachenuque en écorce battue". Interestingly, a different photograph of this mask as it was being danced appears in fig 14 on p18 & is discussed on pp19-20 of Volper's book. Both photos of this mask appear again on p22 and another photo of the mask in fig 1 appears on p24. It appears yet again on p90 in fig 44.

Jim Ross, (6/9/2011):

Appears on Yale/van Rijn website, 0080104~01.

Bruno Claessens, (10/1/2012):

Pictured and discussed in Julien Volper's "Autour des Songye. Under the influence of the Songye", Annales des arts africains, 2012: p. 17, figure 2

Jim Ross, (1/5/2013):

The 10/1/12 comment alerted us to a new publication, Julien Volper's Autour Des Songye. Under the influence of the Songye (2012) which sets forth a field photograph of this mask on the cover & on p28, fig14, a contemporary installation color photograph on pp16 & 116, fig1 and a republication of the RAAI #101 field photograph on p17, fig 2. On p14, the author makes the following introductory remarks about this mask: "The mask at the centre of this study, is one of those objects which disarms both the specialist and the neophyte, neither of whom can express rationally the feeling it evokes." He goes on to say that "To centre a new study of these masks on the Seattle specimen is particularly valuable in several ways. First the mask has retained more elements of its original costume than any other. Second, it is doubtless the most aesthetically remarkable of all the round striated masks known to us. Finally, it is the only such mask for which we have an important field document: a photograph: (Figure 2)."

From the caption for fig 1, we learn that the mask's height is 44 cm & width, 42 cm. Its materials are listed as "wood, pigments, beard of black fibres, neck covering of beaten bark."

Jim Ross, (1/19/2013):

Appears in a color photograph in African Sculpture by William Fagg (1969) 145, cat. no. 182.

Jim Ross, (3/20/2013):

 This mask appears in color in The Museum for African Art publication Memory - Luba Art and the Making of History by Mary Nooter Roberts and Allen F. Roberts, Editors (1996) 87, cat. 32 with the following caption: "Striated Mask. Luba, Zaire. This important kifwebe mask is of a type collected around the turn of the century by missionaries among eastern Luba and Luba-ized Tabwa living along the Luvua River in the lands around the present-day town of Kiambi. They were apparently danced at the death of a chief or other eminent person, or when a person assumed an important political title. The etymology of 'kifwebe,' the name of a spirit, is 'to chase away, or put to flight, death.' Such a sense would be appropriate to a further context for their use: in rituals of the Kazanzi Society, through which sorcery is confronted and eliminated from the community. Complex costumes of animal skins and raffia were worn, and the masks were danced in couples, one representing a male spirit, the other a female. One surmises that the masks were performed to mark moments of important social transition and transformation. Wood, raffia, bark, pigment, twine. H. 36.2 in. Seattle Art Museum, Gift of Katherine White and the Boeing Company, Inv. no. 81.17.869."

Appears also in African Art in Motion by Robert Farris Thompson (1974) 141, fig 179 & is discussed on pp135 & 144.

Jim Ross, (3/24/2013):

 This type of mask is discussed in Luba Zoo: Kifwebe and Other Striped Masks by Marc Leo Felix (1992) 9. This image appears on p19.

Jim Ross, (3/30/2013):

 This mask appears in Frans M. Olbrecht's Les Arts Plastiques Du Congo Belge (1959) pl. 223 with the following caption on p150: "Masque, porté par les chefs des cérémonies d'initiation; Ba-Luba; hauteur 440 mm. Collection des Pères Blancs d'Afrique, Anvers.'

Jim Ross, (8/26/2013):

Appears in the Brooklyn Museum exhibition catalog African Sculpture - 31 Masterpieces of African Sculpture by Michael Kan 1970, 62 with the following caption on p63: "Baluba. Helmet mask. H. 14-1/2 inches. Collection Katherine White Reswick, Cleveland."

Jim Ross, (10/14/2013):

 Appears on p59 of an 29 Janvier au 13 Fevrier 1949 exhibition in La Salle des Fetes, Meir, Anvers with a catalog entitled Exposition d'Art Colonial Contemporain with the following caption on p18: "Grand masque "Kifwebe", rayonné noir et blanc avec barbe en raphia couvre chef en écorce."

Jim Ross, (1/13/2014):

 Appears in the exhibition catalog entitled Vatican Exhibition. The Arts In Belgian Congo and Ruanda-Urundi (1950) pl. 45 with the following caption: "Mask of initiator Ba-Luba.".

 Also appears in the Antwerp exhibition catalog Tentoonstellung van Kongo-Kunst . Stadsfeestzaal 24 December 1937-16 Januari 1938, Pl. 22 with the following caption: "Masker van het ronde type, met vezelbaard. (Baluba). Nr. 134. Verz. EE. Wite Paters van Afrika, Antwerpen." On p24, nr. 134 is the following: "Groep Dansers. In het midden van de zaal, op een hoog voestuk, staan vier danserfiguren van verschillende herkomst: 134. Geribd masker, ronde type, met vezelbaard: 44 cm (Pl. 22). Verz. EE. Witte Paters van Afrika, Antwerpen."

Jim Ross, (11/10/2014):

 What may well be the same mask appears in L'Art Nègre Du Congo Belge immediately preceding the lst chapter entitled "L'Art Du Congo Belge" is by Louis Piérard (1950) 8 with the following caption: "Masque de danse de féticheurs Baluba (coll. Pères Blancs, Anvers)."

Jim Ross, (12/9/2014):

 Same image appears on p57 in Africa-Tervuren, XXIV - 1978 - 3 in an article entitled Kifwebe And  Other Masked And Unmasked Societies Among The Basongye by Alan P. Merriam (1978) 57, Fig 1.

Jim Ross, (7/14/2015): Appears in Robin Poynor's chapter on "The Eastern Congo Basin" in A History of Art in Africa by Monica Blackmun Visonà et al (2001) 418, fig 12-10 with the following caption: "Luba kifwebe masker, Congo. 1913."

Jim Ross, (1/28/2016): A full page color photoraph of this mask appears on p12 preceding an article by Constantine Petridis entitled Dancing with the New Moon. A Luba Kifwebe Mask from the Seattle Art Museum (2016) in Masterworks on Loan. Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Cleveland Museum of Art. First Quarter 2016. An interesting photo of the masking being danced appears on p17 with the following caption: "The Seattle Art Museum's mask in performance in the Congo sometime before 1908. Photo: probably Father Pierre Colle. (c) Photographic Archives of the White Fathers, Rome. Courtesy of Julien Volper, Tervuren."