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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Mask (Kifwebe)

Photo: Paul Macapia

Mask (Kifwebe)

This round female mask appeared with a male during significant life crises, particularly to honor the death of important people. Striations, a hallmark of Kifwebe or "driving away death" masks, may refer to the stripes of zebras and bushbacks, or to the ditch leading to the underground abode of the mask's founding spirits.

Collected and published by a Belgian missionary in 1913, this mask is one of the best known works in the museum's collection.

Wood, raffia, bark, pigment, and twine
36 1/4 x 24 x 12 in. (92.1 x 60.9 x 30.5 cm)
Gift of Katherine White and the Boeing Company
Provenance: Acquired by Father P. Colle (1872-1961), Antwerp, Belgium, 1908; Society of the African Missionaries, 1908-1961; sold, via [Marcel Lemaire, Brussels, Belgium], to [Henri A. Kamer, New York]; purchased from gallery by Katherine White (1929-1980), Seattle, Washington, 1962; bequeathed to Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington, 1981
Photo: Paul Macapia
Now on view at the Seattle Art Museum


Exhibition HistoryLos Angeles, California, Frederick S. Wight Art Gallery, University of California, African Art in Motion: Icon and Act, Jan. 20 - Mar. 17, 1974 (Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, May 5 - Sept. 22, 1974). Text by Robert Farris Thompson. No cat. no., pp. 135, 141, reproduced pl. 179 (as "kifwebe" (mask)).

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Praise Poems: The Katherine White Collection, July 29 - Sept. 29, 1984 (Washington, D.C., National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Oct. 31, 1984 - Feb. 25, 1985; Raleigh, North Carolina Museum of Art, Apr. 6 - May 19, 1985; Fort Worth, Texas, Kimbell Art Museum, Sept. 7 - Nov. 25, 1985; Kansas City, Missouri, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Mar. 8 - Apr. 20, 1986). Text by Pamela McClusky. Cat. no. 43, pp. 94-95, reproduced.

Paris, France, Musée Dapper, Art Luba, Nov. 24, 1993 - Apr. 17, 1994.

New York, New York, Museum for African Art, Memory: Luba Art and the Making of History, Feb. 2 - Sept. 8, 1996 (Washington, D.C., National Museum of African Art, Oct. 30, 1996 - Jan. 26, 1997).

Cleveland, Ohio, Cleveland Art Museum, Centennial Exhibition, Apr. 1 - June 1, 2016.
Published ReferencesMcClusky, Pamela. "Art of Africa." In Selected Works, pp. 35-52. Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, 1991; p. 48, reproduced.

Nooter Roberts, Mary and Allen F. Roberts, Visions of Africa: Luba, 2007, illus. p. 21, cit. p. 128

Seattle Art Museum: Bridging Cultures, London: Scala Publishers Ltd. for the Seattle Art Museum, 2007, p. 49

Petridis, Constantine. “Dancing with the New Moon.” Masterworks on Loan (First Quarter 2016): pp. 12-17, reproduced.

Seattle Art Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. We honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future.

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