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Millions for mesmerising mask from Congo culture

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A Walschot-Schoffel Kifwebe Congolese mask was auctioned by Christie’s for $4215000 (nearly R60.4million) in New York.

Belgian collector and art dealer Jeanne Walschot-Schoffel (1896-1977) – an avid collector of Congolese and African art – first acquired the mask described as a “mesmerising masterpiece” by the auction house.

Worn over the face and accessorised with raffia-palm beards, Kifwebe masks have been used for hundreds of years by the Songye people of what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Songye Kifwebe masks were first collected in the 1900s by the pioneering artists of Modernism who were captivated by their bold, graphic style.

Then in the 1920s, the Surrealists – motivated by Freudian ideas of the uncanny – became fascinated by the dream-like qualities of the masks. 

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