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Re: [African_Arts] male Kifwebe mask? (side thickness)

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  • G. Wood
    John  so you see the variety of answers that one can acquire when asking about an age or valuse on art.  It sort of make sense that if you have a line of
    Message 1 of 22 , Mar 9 7:08 AM
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      John  so you see the variety of answers that one can acquire when asking about an age or valuse on art.  It sort of make sense that if you have a line of provenance from an established collector the more "worth" an item has.  However, if I have learned anything on these forums and from collecting for 20 years, it is safe anymore to assume an item is a replication, falsely aged, and sold to fool a collector as there is tons of evidence that carving shops are all over.  The best advice I have had from folks here who tend to be moderate and helpful is that if you admire the piece and if it represents the style and culture, enjoy it an have fun.
      Let me also add that many discussions have been on here about provenances that are fake, invented, spurious, etc.  And form my untrained eye, it wopuld seem that if an "upper end" dealer has an item it is always "the real thing" but if you have it it is always a fake.  My greatest problem is that although I have visited as many museums and galleries as possible I seldom get a chance to have a hands on experience and I think that most valuable.
      A dear friend here in the states had what I thought a more than nice collection most of which he acquired from a "runner" who made a living by bringing items to the US, selling them, purchasing staples and clothes, and flying back to Africa where he made money on items purchased here and resold there.  I thought that the collection had many pieces in it that showed reasonable wear, patina, etc but we soon found out that all the typical characterisitcs one would nornmally look for can be faked very expertly.
      Finally, this seems to be a very compassionate and well-modeerated site compared to others where those in the know can be pretty vicious in their remarks.  I think it a handsome piece and if you did not pay a ton of money for it you can like it a lot-plus in 100 years it will be an antique.


      From: john sebastian <johnsebastian@...>
      To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Mon, March 8, 2010 5:29:03 PM
      Subject: Re: [African_Arts] male Kifwebe mask? (side thickness)

       

      Thank you Paul an excellent and helpful missive.


      The estate from which this mask originated was that of a local collector and artist Peggy Hendelson. Her family, her husband in particular had little interest in her collections which were eclectic and spanned from Persian saddle bags to well Kifwebe masks.

      All her family could say was that she employed an agent in Africa to find objects for her I neglected to ask as to how long she had this object. That is all I know of the provenance. Possibly I can contact the family and see if any records exist as to who the agent was and how long Mrs Hendelson had the mask.

      Thanks again, it is a nice object to own and enjoy whatever the background, and when I am finished with the investigation I will have perhaps a little more knowledge.  


      On Mar 8, 2010, at 12:57 PM, Paul DeLucco wrote:

       

      Greetings,
       
      The Kifwebe mask is one of the most dramatic masks in Africa and one of the most difficult to expertise.  It is a mask whose style is shared by the Luba groups and the Songye groups of the northern Katanga area of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as well as small clusters of Songye in the Eastern Kasai province.  Various styles have emerged and disappeared over the last century in various parts of the range of the Kifwebe cult, some of these styles influenced by European collectors. 
       
      The situation of the Kifwebe mask is similar in some ways to that of the Hopi Indian Kachina doll.  The Kachina doll is still important today to Hopi culture and is still made by Hopi craftsmen and used in Hopi rituals.  Today, it is often sold after the rituals.  No doubt, the carvers also sell copies they have made into the same market.  The result is that the difference between real and fake is blurred beyond argument.  What is important to Kachina collectors now is age and provenance, or just provenance as that includes age.
       
      For the last few decades, the Kifwebe mask has been made and sold in large numbers by traditional carvers in its traditional range. Now, professional carvers elsewhere in Africa make Kifwebe masks for the art market.  This supports what Ed says below:   I saw young carvers at few local shops (sides and back), "whittling away", making masks.  Quite the impressionable sight for an enthusiast to behold.  
       
      What this means for the collector is that there are several ranges of quality of Kifwebe mask.  The lowest grade would be the knock-offs being carved in Dakar or Nairobi for sale as airport art.  The next higher range would be the masks carved in the traditional range for sale to collectors. At the higher end of the market would be the masks carved for, and used in, traditional rituals and then sold to collectors.  The highest grade would be the masks collected more than 50 years ago, with provalble provenance, something going substantively beyond the "old Belgian collection" tag that Sothebys is always employing.  
       
      I have looked at the photos of Sebaastian's mask and there are things I like.  A real Kifwebe is almost always made from soft wood.  It may be stored in a sack in an upright position, or on an overhead rack in a horizontal position, or hung on wall but, in some way, it is put out of reach of a busy household.  What this means is that the back edges come in contact with a surface for a long period of time where it can be exposed to moisture or insects.  This explains the frequent signs of rot on the edges of the mask near the holes where the raffia attaches.  Sebastian's mask seems to show such signs.  On the negative side, the exagerrated style of Sebastian's mask, with the protuberant eyes, is precisely the style favored by European collectors in the mid-20th Century.  It is probably the most copied style.
       
      I went through some auction catalogues for the last 12 months and picked out the Kifwebe masks offered for sale.  I am attaching the file here. Notice the range of styles and estimated prices.  (Frankly, I wonder how many experts are capable of expertising such masks.)  Sebastian can do a number of things to enhance the credibility of his mask.  First of all, he needs to get the opinion of an expert appraiser who can examine the piece physically - photos don't do it.  Assuming the appraiser accepts the possibility of the mask being real, Sebastian needs to find out from the estate agent, surviving member of the family, etc where the collector might have acquired the mask.  He will want to get that in writing.  Then he should collect a lot of photos of other masks of similar style that are in international collections.  Finally, he might want to pay for a range of scientific tests to comoe up with a possible age.  Provenance can be a work in progress and such work might well pay off in the end.
       
      Regards,
       
      Paul           
       
       


      From: Ed Jones <bucit@yahoo. com>
      To: African_Arts@ yahoogroups. com
      Sent: Mon, March 8, 2010 6:28:17 AM
      Subject: Re: [African_Arts] male Kifwebe mask? (side thickness)

       

      Hello John,
       
      Again, I have tried to view image 3311 carefully.  It appears (to me) that the difference of thickness between the sides are attributed to the carver's ability... This asymmetry is not uncommon, even among "vetted" and perhaps superior pieces.   I do not see "dry rot" or issues around the holes --- except differences attributed to carving or mask making.  
       
      Last time I was in Africa was in 2008 (Dakar, Senegal).  On two occasions, I saw young carvers at few local shops (sides and back), "whittling away", making masks.  Quite the impressionable sight for an enthusiast to behold. 
       
      I only mention this because (I think) it is important and reasonable to consider these days.  Perhaps, the extraordinary items have been claimed by the time --- environmental or destroyed.  Of course, there are items tucked and hidden away in early private (colonial) collections. 
      Some pieces continue to be "sequestered or ransomed" as part of criminal activities such as the British Punitive Expedition or for simple profit/greed.  It will take "deep pockets" to get pieces of extraordinary caliper/quality, but there are still excellent items coming out of Africa.
       
      Meanwhile, self-learning remains a wealth of finding and true discovery.
       
      Ed
       


      From: john sebastian <johnsebastian@ comcast.net>
      To: African_Arts@ yahoogroups. com
      Sent: Sun, March 7, 2010 8:22:04 AM
      Subject: Re: [African_Arts] male Kifwebe mask?

       

      Ed,


      Thanks for the reply and yes  I am referring to the holes for the raffia. It seems apparent that the wood on the bottom and right side has been cut away presumably due to rot or damage.

      If you look at image 3311 in my album (Sebastian) you will see the holes on the left side of the mask and you can see how the wood is of greater thickness on the right side of the mask suggesting that it has been cut back.

      The wood it self is rather soft and some small areas on the edges might be described as having a bit of "dry rot", the wood where exposed appears quite similar to the wood on your female mask.

      The object is also quite large almost 18 inches (45.7 cm) tall and almost 10 inches (25.4 cm) wide

      Makes a lovely note when thumped with the knuckle.

      I did not know about the nose hairs how wonderful.

      Thanks for the help


      On Mar 6, 2010, at 4:41 PM, Ed Jones wrote:

       

      John,
       
      I am uncertain about this... I never encountered a mask with holes only on one side.  Are you referring to the attachment holes for the raffia (and part of the over-all regalia) which is the back part of the mask?  If so, and it lacks holes around the entire back periphery, this would most likely indicate the mask is "certainly made for the market".  How else would it hold firm to the wearer's head?
       
      The raffia on both masks was damaged and partially attached.  I made "make-shift repairs" to re-attach both for display.
       
      Anyway, I have attached a few photos of a couple Songye "kifwebe" helmet masks from my collection for your review.  You can find them in a photo album titled "bucit".
      They are both quite huge in size. I think the female helmet is the better of the two, or at least, I prefer it more.  It also is made of a soft wood which is typical of older relics (more susceptible to environmental decay and damage and deterioration) ... The male example is of a more dense and hard wood type, but I like the power expressed through the crest.  You can see the "netting" with the magic herbs, etc in-tact on both masks.  The nose hairs on both masks are also quite visible; "in the spirit realm, the ability to walk/tread around death with it's pungent smell"... Another functional attribute about the purpose of these (dangerous) masks I find intriguing.. .
       
      Ed 

       


      From: john sebastian <johnsebastian@ comcast.net>
      To: African_Arts@ yahoogroups. com
      Sent: Fri, March 5, 2010 2:21:29 PM
      Subject: Re: [African_Arts] male Kefwele mask?

       

      Well I did know the collector from whose estate I purchased this object A very discerning woman. But you are most probably correct. However one must note that there are holes with black threads on only one side of this mask as if someone had cut the rotten wood off the other edges?


      A complex aging technique if that is what it is.

      On Mar 5, 2010, at 10:42 AM, Ed Jones wrote:

       

      John,
       
      It is an attractive male "kifwebe". However, reasonably, I would seriously doubt that this mask is vetted or has been genuinely used during dance or intended function.  From all accounts (to me), it appears to have been replicated for the market... Made to look aged.  Such pieces are typically not more than 20-30 years in age at the most.  I think in this case, possibly more recent.
       
      Enjoy it and as time, descearnment and tastes change and cultivate, sell/trade or provide it for another to appreciate (and perhaps learn).
       
      Ed 


      From: john sebastian <johnsebastian@ comcast.net>
      To: African_Arts@ yahoogroups. com
      Sent: Thu, March 4, 2010 5:16:32 PM
      Subject: Re: [African_Arts] male Kefwele mask?

       

      Thank you very much any idea how old this mask might be? My understanding is that the patterns of wear suggest this mask was used but I am very new to this topic.


      Any notions?
       
      On Mar 3, 2010, at 7:24 AM, G. Wood wrote:

       

      Thanks John  nice piece.


      From: john sebastian <johnsebastian@ comcast.net>
      To: African_Arts@ yahoogroups. com
      Sent: Sun, February 28, 2010 6:58:58 PM
      Subject: [African_Arts] male Kefwele mask?

       

      Hello brand new to this group,

      I picked up a number of items at an estate sale last fall and was
      hoping to receive a bit of advice and information on these objects.

      At this point I've uploaded photos of what appears to be a male
      kefwele mask any suggestions or comments would be appreciated. The
      mask appears to have use wear and I've included a number of close ups
      to show the condition of the pigment and wood.

      There is a Rwandan Batik in the background of these images.

      The album is named Sebastian and the link is below.

      Thanks

      http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/African_ Arts/photos/ album/567979532/ pic/list










       
       
       



    • G. Wood
      I concur with others that out side 20 years maybe more recent; but 20 years in Africa is a long time for wood and cloth to hang in.
      Message 2 of 22 , Mar 9 7:09 AM
      • 0 Attachment
        I concur with others that out side 20 years maybe more recent; but 20 years in Africa is a long time for wood and cloth to hang in.


        From: john sebastian <johnsebastian@...>
        To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
        Sent: Thu, March 4, 2010 6:16:32 PM
        Subject: Re: [African_Arts] male Kefwele mask?

         

        Thank you very much any idea how old this mask might be? My understanding is that the patterns of wear suggest this mask was used but I am very new to this topic.


        Any notions?
         
        On Mar 3, 2010, at 7:24 AM, G. Wood wrote:

         

        Thanks John  nice piece.


        From: john sebastian <johnsebastian@ comcast.net>
        To: African_Arts@ yahoogroups. com
        Sent: Sun, February 28, 2010 6:58:58 PM
        Subject: [African_Arts] male Kefwele mask?

         

        Hello brand new to this group,

        I picked up a number of items at an estate sale last fall and was
        hoping to receive a bit of advice and information on these objects.

        At this point I've uploaded photos of what appears to be a male
        kefwele mask any suggestions or comments would be appreciated. The
        mask appears to have use wear and I've included a number of close ups
        to show the condition of the pigment and wood.

        There is a Rwandan Batik in the background of these images.

        The album is named Sebastian and the link is below.

        Thanks

        http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/African_ Arts/photos/ album/567979532/ pic/list



      • john sebastian
        Thank you Mr. Wood, No I think I am alright on the price even if this is only a recent copy or decorative item, I just wish I had purchased more from this
        Message 3 of 22 , Mar 9 2:36 PM
        • 0 Attachment
          Thank you Mr. Wood,

          No I think I am alright on the price even if this is only a recent copy or decorative item, I just wish I had purchased more from this particular estate sale.

          And I quite like your observation that if a high end dealer has it the assumption is the object is genuine, and if a collector found it at a garage sale it is a fake. I will take your statement as a quote if I may attribution assured.

          I live in a very strange place and have been collecting art here for almost ten years. Oak Ridge, Tennessee where the folks were often cosmopolitan. world travelers, and very well compensated. 

          These items I have a few more are my first excursion into African art - except for a couple of batiks. You really never know what you may find here the Home Depot turned out to have buried uranium when they started clearing the land. The estate sales can be just as weird.

          Further I will repeat your observation of the courteous and polite nature expressed on this list - I appreciate the help and understanding everyone has been more than kind and patient.


          On Mar 9, 2010, at 10:08 AM, G. Wood wrote:

           

          John  so you see the variety of answers that one can acquire when asking about an age or valuse on art.  It sort of make sense that if you have a line of provenance from an established collector the more "worth" an item has.  However, if I have learned anything on these forums and from collecting for 20 years, it is safe anymore to assume an item is a replication, falsely aged, and sold to fool a collector as there is tons of evidence that carving shops are all over.  The best advice I have had from folks here who tend to be moderate and helpful is that if you admire the piece and if it represents the style and culture, enjoy it an have fun.
          Let me also add that many discussions have been on here about provenances that are fake, invented, spurious, etc.  And form my untrained eye, it wopuld seem that if an "upper end" dealer has an item it is always "the real thing" but if you have it it is always a fake.  My greatest problem is that although I have visited as many museums and galleries as possible I seldom get a chance to have a hands on experience and I think that most valuable.
          A dear friend here in the states had what I thought a more than nice collection most of which he acquired from a "runner" who made a living by bringing items to the US, selling them, purchasing staples and clothes, and flying back to Africa where he made money on items purchased here and resold there.  I thought that the collection had many pieces in it that showed reasonable wear, patina, etc but we soon found out that all the typical characterisitcs one would nornmally look for can be faked very expertly.
          Finally, this seems to be a very compassionate and well-modeerated site compared to others where those in the know can be pretty vicious in their remarks.  I think it a handsome piece and if you did not pay a ton of money for it you can like it a lot-plus in 100 years it will be an antique.


          From: john sebastian <johnsebastian@ comcast.net>
          To: African_Arts@ yahoogroups. com
          Sent: Mon, March 8, 2010 5:29:03 PM
          Subject: Re: [African_Arts] male Kifwebe mask? (side thickness)

           

          Thank you Paul an excellent and helpful missive.


          The estate from which this mask originated was that of a local collector and artist Peggy Hendelson. Her family, her husband in particular had little interest in her collections which were eclectic and spanned from Persian saddle bags to well Kifwebe masks.

          All her family could say was that she employed an agent in Africa to find objects for her I neglected to ask as to how long she had this object. That is all I know of the provenance. Possibly I can contact the family and see if any records exist as to who the agent was and how long Mrs Hendelson had the mask.

          Thanks again, it is a nice object to own and enjoy whatever the background, and when I am finished with the investigation I will have perhaps a little more knowledge.  


          On Mar 8, 2010, at 12:57 PM, Paul DeLucco wrote:

           

          Greetings,
           
          The Kifwebe mask is one of the most dramatic masks in Africa and one of the most difficult to expertise.  It is a mask whose style is shared by the Luba groups and the Songye groups of the northern Katanga area of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as well as small clusters of Songye in the Eastern Kasai province.  Various styles have emerged and disappeared over the last century in various parts of the range of the Kifwebe cult, some of these styles influenced by European collectors. 
           
          The situation of the Kifwebe mask is similar in some ways to that of the Hopi Indian Kachina doll.  The Kachina doll is still important today to Hopi culture and is still made by Hopi craftsmen and used in Hopi rituals.  Today, it is often sold after the rituals.  No doubt, the carvers also sell copies they have made into the same market.  The result is that the difference between real and fake is blurred beyond argument.  What is important to Kachina collectors now is age and provenance, or just provenance as that includes age.
           
          For the last few decades, the Kifwebe mask has been made and sold in large numbers by traditional carvers in its traditional range. Now, professional carvers elsewhere in Africa make Kifwebe masks for the art market.  This supports what Ed says below:   I saw young carvers at few local shops (sides and back), "whittling away", making masks.  Quite the impressionable sight for an enthusiast to behold.  
           
          What this means for the collector is that there are several ranges of quality of Kifwebe mask.  The lowest grade would be the knock-offs being carved in Dakar or Nairobi for sale as airport art.  The next higher range would be the masks carved in the traditional range for sale to collectors. At the higher end of the market would be the masks carved for, and used in, traditional rituals and then sold to collectors.  The highest grade would be the masks collected more than 50 years ago, with provalble provenance, something going substantively beyond the "old Belgian collection" tag that Sothebys is always employing.  
           
          I have looked at the photos of Sebaastian's mask and there are things I like.  A real Kifwebe is almost always made from soft wood.  It may be stored in a sack in an upright position, or on an overhead rack in a horizontal position, or hung on wall but, in some way, it is put out of reach of a busy household.  What this means is that the back edges come in contact with a surface for a long period of time where it can be exposed to moisture or insects.  This explains the frequent signs of rot on the edges of the mask near the holes where the raffia attaches.  Sebastian's mask seems to show such signs.  On the negative side, the exagerrated style of Sebastian's mask, with the protuberant eyes, is precisely the style favored by European collectors in the mid-20th Century.  It is probably the most copied style.
           
          I went through some auction catalogues for the last 12 months and picked out the Kifwebe masks offered for sale.  I am attaching the file here. Notice the range of styles and estimated prices.  (Frankly, I wonder how many experts are capable of expertising such masks.)  Sebastian can do a number of things to enhance the credibility of his mask.  First of all, he needs to get the opinion of an expert appraiser who can examine the piece physically - photos don't do it.  Assuming the appraiser accepts the possibility of the mask being real, Sebastian needs to find out from the estate agent, surviving member of the family, etc where the collector might have acquired the mask.  He will want to get that in writing.  Then he should collect a lot of photos of other masks of similar style that are in international collections.  Finally, he might want to pay for a range of scientific tests to comoe up with a possible age.  Provenance can be a work in progress and such work might well pay off in the end.
           
          Regards,
           
          Paul           
           
           


          From: Ed Jones <bucit@yahoo. com>
          To: African_Arts@ yahoogroups. com
          Sent: Mon, March 8, 2010 6:28:17 AM
          Subject: Re: [African_Arts] male Kifwebe mask? (side thickness)

           

          Hello John,
           
          Again, I have tried to view image 3311 carefully.  It appears (to me) that the difference of thickness between the sides are attributed to the carver's ability... This asymmetry is not uncommon, even among "vetted" and perhaps superior pieces.   I do not see "dry rot" or issues around the holes --- except differences attributed to carving or mask making.  
           
          Last time I was in Africa was in 2008 (Dakar, Senegal).  On two occasions, I saw young carvers at few local shops (sides and back), "whittling away", making masks.  Quite the impressionable sight for an enthusiast to behold. 
           
          I only mention this because (I think) it is important and reasonable to consider these days.  Perhaps, the extraordinary items have been claimed by the time --- environmental or destroyed.  Of course, there are items tucked and hidden away in early private (colonial) collections. 
          Some pieces continue to be "sequestered or ransomed" as part of criminal activities such as the British Punitive Expedition or for simple profit/greed.  It will take "deep pockets" to get pieces of extraordinary caliper/quality, but there are still excellent items coming out of Africa.
           
          Meanwhile, self-learning remains a wealth of finding and true discovery.
           
          Ed
           


          From: john sebastian <johnsebastian@ comcast.net>
          To: African_Arts@ yahoogroups. com
          Sent: Sun, March 7, 2010 8:22:04 AM
          Subject: Re: [African_Arts] male Kifwebe mask?

           

          Ed,


          Thanks for the reply and yes  I am referring to the holes for the raffia. It seems apparent that the wood on the bottom and right side has been cut away presumably due to rot or damage.

          If you look at image 3311 in my album (Sebastian) you will see the holes on the left side of the mask and you can see how the wood is of greater thickness on the right side of the mask suggesting that it has been cut back.

          The wood it self is rather soft and some small areas on the edges might be described as having a bit of "dry rot", the wood where exposed appears quite similar to the wood on your female mask.

          The object is also quite large almost 18 inches (45.7 cm) tall and almost 10 inches (25.4 cm) wide

          Makes a lovely note when thumped with the knuckle.

          I did not know about the nose hairs how wonderful.

          Thanks for the help


          On Mar 6, 2010, at 4:41 PM, Ed Jones wrote:

           

          John,
           
          I am uncertain about this... I never encountered a mask with holes only on one side.  Are you referring to the attachment holes for the raffia (and part of the over-all regalia) which is the back part of the mask?  If so, and it lacks holes around the entire back periphery, this would most likely indicate the mask is "certainly made for the market".  How else would it hold firm to the wearer's head?
           
          The raffia on both masks was damaged and partially attached.  I made "make-shift repairs" to re-attach both for display.
           
          Anyway, I have attached a few photos of a couple Songye "kifwebe" helmet masks from my collection for your review.  You can find them in a photo album titled "bucit".
          They are both quite huge in size. I think the female helmet is the better of the two, or at least, I prefer it more.  It also is made of a soft wood which is typical of older relics (more susceptible to environmental decay and damage and deterioration) ... The male example is of a more dense and hard wood type, but I like the power expressed through the crest.  You can see the "netting" with the magic herbs, etc in-tact on both masks.  The nose hairs on both masks are also quite visible; "in the spirit realm, the ability to walk/tread around death with it's pungent smell"... Another functional attribute about the purpose of these (dangerous) masks I find intriguing.. .
           
          Ed 

           


          From: john sebastian <johnsebastian@ comcast.net>
          To: African_Arts@ yahoogroups. com
          Sent: Fri, March 5, 2010 2:21:29 PM
          Subject: Re: [African_Arts] male Kefwele mask?

           

          Well I did know the collector from whose estate I purchased this object A very discerning woman. But you are most probably correct. However one must note that there are holes with black threads on only one side of this mask as if someone had cut the rotten wood off the other edges?


          A complex aging technique if that is what it is.

          On Mar 5, 2010, at 10:42 AM, Ed Jones wrote:

           

          John,
           
          It is an attractive male "kifwebe". However, reasonably, I would seriously doubt that this mask is vetted or has been genuinely used during dance or intended function.  From all accounts (to me), it appears to have been replicated for the market... Made to look aged.  Such pieces are typically not more than 20-30 years in age at the most.  I think in this case, possibly more recent.
           
          Enjoy it and as time, descearnment and tastes change and cultivate, sell/trade or provide it for another to appreciate (and perhaps learn).
           
          Ed 


          From: john sebastian <johnsebastian@ comcast.net>
          To: African_Arts@ yahoogroups. com
          Sent: Thu, March 4, 2010 5:16:32 PM
          Subject: Re: [African_Arts] male Kefwele mask?

           

          Thank you very much any idea how old this mask might be? My understanding is that the patterns of wear suggest this mask was used but I am very new to this topic.


          Any notions?
           
          On Mar 3, 2010, at 7:24 AM, G. Wood wrote:

           

          Thanks John  nice piece.


          From: john sebastian <johnsebastian@ comcast.net>
          To: African_Arts@ yahoogroups. com
          Sent: Sun, February 28, 2010 6:58:58 PM
          Subject: [African_Arts] male Kefwele mask?

           

          Hello brand new to this group,

          I picked up a number of items at an estate sale last fall and was
          hoping to receive a bit of advice and information on these objects.

          At this point I've uploaded photos of what appears to be a male
          kefwele mask any suggestions or comments would be appreciated. The
          mask appears to have use wear and I've included a number of close ups
          to show the condition of the pigment and wood.

          There is a Rwandan Batik in the background of these images.

          The album is named Sebastian and the link is below.

          Thanks

          http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/African_ Arts/photos/ album/567979532/ pic/list










           
           
           





        • john sebastian
          After all the excellent advice I decided to take a quite close look at my kifwebe mask. I discovered what appear to be two marks indented in the wood as if by
          Message 4 of 22 , Mar 10 5:35 PM
          • 0 Attachment
            After all the excellent advice I decided to take a quite close look
            at my kifwebe mask.

            I discovered what appear to be two marks indented in the wood as if
            by a punch of some sort.

            Both are roughly an inch in diameter and roughly pentagonal in shape.
            One is under the mouth and the other is inside above the eyes.

            Perhaps the marks if that is what they are can help to identify the
            origin of this object? If anyone would care to look and perhaps give
            an opinion I've uploaded to the album sebastian images of the marks.
            Further I've added a close up of the holes and the wear marks about
            the holes.
            http://groups.yahoo.com/group/African_Arts/photos/album/567979532/pic/94477691/view
            http://groups.yahoo.com/group/African_Arts/photos/album/567979532/pic/13392505/view
            http://groups.yahoo.com/group/African_Arts/photos/album/567979532/pic/13392505/view

            Thanks for all the help.
          • pataphor123
            Hi Paul and others: I realize this conversation is from a year ago. But I thought this would be fun to share. I downloaded that document Paul created with
            Message 5 of 22 , Apr 29, 2012
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              Hi Paul and others:

              I realize this "conversation" is from a year ago. But I thought this would be fun to share.

              I downloaded that document Paul created with photos of bifwebe from Zemanek. (I'd never really heard of Zemanek before,)

              I found this photo:

              And thought it looked an awfully lot like this one, that I bought from an estate sale last week:

              They're also roughly the same size: 25" (Zemanek catalog) vs. 27.5" (one I purchased).

              Mine doesn't have the nose hairs, but it has holes where they must have been attached at one point. It also smells like a campfire and has a "rubbed spot" right about where the chin would be on the inside.

              Either way, I'm in love with this new kifwebe, even if my girlfriend still thinks it's ugly. : )



              --- In African_Arts@yahoogroups.com, Paul DeLucco <pauldelucco@...> wrote:
              >
              > Greetings,
              >
              > The Kifwebe mask is one of the most dramatic masks in Africa and one of the most difficult to expertise.  It is a mask whose style is shared by the Luba groups and the Songye groups of the northern Katanga area of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as well as small clusters of Songye in the Eastern Kasai province.  Various styles have emerged and disappeared over the last century in various parts of the range of the Kifwebe cult, some of these styles influenced by European collectors. 
              >
              > The situation of the Kifwebe mask is similar in some ways to that of the Hopi Indian Kachina doll.  The Kachina doll is still important today to Hopi culture and is still made by Hopi craftsmen and used in Hopi rituals.  Today, it is often sold after the rituals.  No doubt, the carvers also sell copies they have made into the same market.  The result is that the difference between real and fake is blurred beyond argument.  What is important to Kachina collectors now is age and provenance, or just provenance as that includes age.
              >
              > For the last few decades, the Kifwebe mask has been made and sold in large numbers by traditional carvers in its traditional range. Now, professional carvers elsewhere in Africa make Kifwebe masks for the art market.  This supports what Ed says below:   I saw young carvers at few local shops (sides and back), "whittling away", making masks.  Quite the impressionable sight for an enthusiast to behold.  
              >
              > What this means for the collector is that there are several ranges of quality of Kifwebe mask.  The lowest grade would be the knock-offs being carved in Dakar or Nairobi for sale as airport art.  The next higher range would be the masks carved in the traditional range for sale to collectors. At the higher end of the market would be the masks carved for, and used in, traditional rituals and then sold to collectors.  The highest grade would be the masks collected more than 50 years ago, with provalble provenance, something going substantively beyond the "old Belgian collection" tag that Sothebys is always employing.  
              >  
              > I have looked at the photos of Sebaastian's mask and there are things I like.  A real Kifwebe is almost always made from soft wood.  It may be stored in a sack in an upright position, or on an overhead rack in a horizontal position, or hung on wall but, in some way, it is put out of reach of a busy household.  What this means is that the back edges come in contact with a surface for a long period of time where it can be exposed to moisture or insects.  This explains the frequent signs of rot on the edges of the mask near the holes where the raffia attaches.  Sebastian's mask seems to show such signs.  On the negative side, the exagerrated style of Sebastian's mask, with the protuberant eyes, is precisely the style favored by European collectors in the mid-20th Century.  It is probably the most copied style.
              >  
              > I went through some auction catalogues for the last 12 months and picked out the Kifwebe masks offered for sale.  I am attaching the file here. Notice the range of styles and estimated prices.  (Frankly, I wonder how many experts are capable of expertising such masks.)  Sebastian can do a number of things to enhance the credibility of his mask.  First of all, he needs to get the opinion of an expert appraiser who can examine the piece physically - photos don't do it.  Assuming the appraiser accepts the possibility of the mask being real, Sebastian needs to find out from the estate agent, surviving member of the family, etc where the collector might have acquired the mask.  He will want to get that in writing.  Then he should collect a lot of photos of other masks of similar style that are in international collections.  Finally, he might want to pay for a range of scientific tests to comoe up with a possible age.  Provenance can be a work
              > in progress and such work might well pay off in the end.
              >  
              > Regards,
              >  
              > Paul           
              >
              >  
              >
              >
              >
              >
              > ________________________________
              > From: Ed Jones bucit@...
              > To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
              > Sent: Mon, March 8, 2010 6:28:17 AM
              > Subject: Re: [African_Arts] male Kifwebe mask? (side thickness)
              >
              >  
              > Hello John,
              >  
              > Again, I have tried to view image 3311 carefully.  It appears (to me) that the difference of thickness between the sides are attributed to the carver's ability... This asymmetry is not uncommon, even among "vetted" and perhaps superior pieces.   I do not see "dry rot" or issues around the holes --- except differences attributed to carving or mask making.  
              >  
              > Last time I was in Africa was in 2008 (Dakar, Senegal).  On two occasions, I saw young carvers at few local shops (sides and back), "whittling away", making masks.  Quite the impressionable sight for an enthusiast to behold. 
              >  
              > I only mention this because (I think) it is important and reasonable to consider these days.  Perhaps, the extraordinary items have been claimed by the time --- environmental or destroyed.  Of course, there are items tucked and hidden away in early private (colonial) collections. 
              > Some pieces continue to be "sequestered or ransomed" as part of criminal activities such as the British Punitive Expedition or for simple profit/greed.  It will take "deep pockets" to get pieces of extraordinary caliper/quality, but there are still excellent items coming out of Africa.
              >  
              > Meanwhile, self-learning remains a wealth of finding and true discovery.
              >  
              > Ed
              >  
              >
              >
              >
              >
              > ________________________________
              > From: john sebastian <johnsebastian@ comcast.net>
              > To: African_Arts@ yahoogroups. com
              > Sent: Sun, March 7, 2010 8:22:04 AM
              > Subject: Re: [African_Arts] male Kifwebe mask?
              >
              >  
              > Ed,
              >
              > Thanks for the reply and yes  I am referring to the holes for the raffia. It seems apparent that the wood on the bottom and right side has been cut away presumably due to rot or damage.
              >
              > If you look at image 3311 in my album (Sebastian) you will see the holes on the left side of the mask and you can see how the wood is of greater thickness on the right side of the mask suggesting that it has been cut back.
              >
              > The wood it self is rather soft and some small areas on the edges might be described as having a bit of "dry rot", the wood where exposed appears quite similar to the wood on your female mask.
              >
              > The object is also quite large almost 18 inches (45.7 cm) tall and almost 10 inches (25.4 cm) wide
              >
              > Makes a lovely note when thumped with the knuckle.
              >
              > I did not know about the nose hairs how wonderful.
              >
              > Thanks for the help
              >
              >
              >
              > On Mar 6, 2010, at 4:41 PM, Ed Jones wrote:
              >
              >  
              > >
              > >
              > >John,
              > > 
              > >I am uncertain about this... I never encountered a mask with holes only on one side.  Are you referring to the attachment holes for the raffia (and part of the over-all regalia) which is the back part of the mask?  If so, and it lacks holes around the entire back periphery, this would most likely indicate the mask is "certainly made for the market".  How else would it hold firm to the wearer's head?
              > > 
              > >The raffia on both masks was damaged and partially attached.  I made "make-shift repairs" to re-attach both for display.
              > > 
              > >Anyway, I have attached a few photos of a couple Songye "kifwebe" helmet masks from my collection for your review.  You can find them in a photo album titled "bucit".
              > >They are both quite huge in size. I think the female helmet is the better of the two, or at least, I prefer it more.  It also is made of a soft wood which is typical of older relics (more susceptible to environmental decay and damage and deterioration) ... The male example is of a more dense and hard wood type, but I like the power expressed through the crest.  You can see the "netting" with the magic herbs, etc in-tact on both masks.  The nose hairs on both masks are also quite visible; "in the spirit realm, the ability to walk/tread around death with it's pungent smell"... Another functional attribute about the purpose of these (dangerous) masks I find intriguing.. .
              > > 
              > >Ed 
              > >
              > > 
              > >
              > >
              > >
              > ________________________________
              > From: john sebastian <johnsebastian@ comcast.net>
              > >To: African_Arts@ yahoogroups. com
              > >Sent: Fri, March 5, 2010 2:21:29 PM
              > >Subject: Re: [African_Arts] male Kefwele mask?
              > >
              > > 
              > >Well I did know the collector from whose estate I purchased this object A very discerning woman. But you are most probably correct. However one must note that there are holes with black threads on only one side of this mask as if someone had cut the rotten wood off the other edges?
              > >
              > >
              > >A complex aging technique if that is what it is.
              > >
              > >
              > >On Mar 5, 2010, at 10:42 AM, Ed Jones wrote:
              > >
              > > 
              > >>
              > >>
              > >>John,
              > >> 
              > >>It is an attractive male "kifwebe". However, reasonably, I would seriously doubt that this mask is vetted or has been genuinely used during dance or intended function.  From all accounts (to me), it appears to have been replicated for the market... Made to look aged.  Such pieces are typically not more than 20-30 years in age at the most.  I think in this case, possibly more recent.
              > >> 
              > >>Enjoy it and as time, descearnment and tastes change and cultivate, sell/trade or provide it for another to appreciate (and perhaps learn).
              > >> 
              > >>Ed 
              > >>
              > >>
              > >>
              > >>
              > ________________________________
              > From: john sebastian <johnsebastian@ comcast.net>
              > >>To: African_Arts@ yahoogroups. com
              > >>Sent: Thu, March 4, 2010 5:16:32 PM
              > >>Subject: Re: [African_Arts] male Kefwele mask?
              > >>
              > >> 
              > >>Thank you very much any idea how old this mask might be? My understanding is that the patterns of wear suggest this mask was used but I am very new to this topic.
              > >>
              > >>
              > >>Any notions?
              > >> 
              > >>
              > >>On Mar 3, 2010, at 7:24 AM, G. Wood wrote:
              > >>
              > >> 
              > >>>
              > >>>
              > >>>Thanks John  nice piece.
              > >>>
              > >>>
              > >>>
              > >>>
              > ________________________________
              > From: john sebastian <johnsebastian@ comcast.net>
              > >>>To: African_Arts@ yahoogroups. com
              > >>>Sent: Sun, February 28, 2010 6:58:58 PM
              > >>>Subject: [African_Arts] male Kefwele mask?
              > >>>
              > >>> 
              > >>>Hello brand new to this group,
              > >>>
              > >>>I picked up a number of items at an estate sale last fall and was
              > >>>hoping to receive a bit of advice and information on these objects.
              > >>>
              > >>>At this point I've uploaded photos of what appears to be a male
              > >>>kefwele mask any suggestions or comments would be appreciated. The
              > >>>mask appears to have use wear and I've included a number of close ups
              > >>>to show the condition of the pigment and wood.
              > >>>
              > >>>There is a Rwandan Batik in the background of these images.
              > >>>
              > >>>The album is named Sebastian and the link is below.
              > >>>
              > >>>Thanks
              > >>>
              > >>>http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/African_ Arts/photos/ album/567979532/ pic/list
              > >>>
              > >>>
              > >>>
              > >>
              > >>
              > >>
              > >>
              > >
              > >
              > >
              > >
              >
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