Height: 42 cm
Provenance: brought back from Kinshasa in 1961. Transmitted by descent, Belgian collection.
The Bembe, a subgroup of the biggest ethnic group of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Kongo, use two types of key figurines: ancestral figures used to represent and honour deceased community chiefs and another group of power figures, used by soothsayers to heal their woes.
The Bembe consider that small anthropomorphic figures in wood are a representation of themselves, both regarding the shape and soul. Anyone wealthy enough, usually chiefs and prosperous hunters, could commission to an artist a portrait representing him in the way he wishes to be remembered today and after his death.
Figurines highlight the continuity between ancestors and living parents, and demonstrate the important role they believe ancestors play, to ensure fertility and protection of the family and community.
All of the carved Bembe figurines are name Nkumba; figures which were not “loaded” yet with special powers or the spirit of their owners. At the death of a figure’s owner, pieces of the individual’s corpse are mixed with medicine and “magical” substances (bilongo).
This mixture is then inserted into a little hole, carved next to the figure’s rectum. By inserting the mixture and by sealing the hole with a wooden plug and/or a wrapping sheet, the nkumba figure houses the spirit of the ancestor and transforms it into a nkiteki ancestor figure (also named kiteki, sibiti, bimbi or mukuya, according to some sources; plural: biteki).
Biteki figures are stored with other ancestral figures in the family shelter, named nzo bakulu. The nzo bakulu is guarded by an elder man of the family, to whom these figures belong.
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Tags: mask, figurine, sculpture, figure, statuette, wood, art, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, USA, Dogon, contemporary, first, primitive, tribal, African, antiquity, artwork, gallery, Picasso, Giacometti, art gallery, African art, cubism.
- 剛果民主共和國 DRC
- 42×0×0 cm