African art > Head rest > Kongo neck press
Kongo headrest (N° 18968)
Prestigious sculpture of the Kongo, this piece of furniture is formed of a figure of a Caryatid couple incarnating the ancestors of the clan, whose back bears diamond-shaped scarification. The child on the woman's lap would evoke the matrilineal transmission of power. The Yombe decorated their textiles, mats and loincloths with lozenges in relation to proverbs glorifying work and social unity. The mouth reveals traditionally filed teeth, the eyes are whitened, underlining the ancestors' ability to discern occult things.
Satin orange-brown patina. Abrasions and cracks.
Clan of the Kongo group, the Yombe are established on the West African coast, in the southwest of the Republic of Congo and in Angola. Their statuary includes remarkable maternity wards.
In the Kongo , the nganga took care of the rituals by activating a spiritual force with a nkondi (pl. nkissi). The term nkisi was then used to refer to the notions of "sacred" or "divine". The most influential category of "minkisi kongo" consisted of instruments designed to help regional chiefs enforce the law. A metal object was nailed to a wooden figure as soon as a decision was made, each nail evoking a particular case: parties in dispute, divorce, conflicts between communities, etc. The nkondi wanted to ensure that the agreement to resolve the conflict was enforced and that individuals feared the consequences of their behavior. Its appearance thus personified the force residing there. From the second half of the twentieth century, minkisi minkondi were strategically placed along the coasts of the Loango kingdom to protect against European incursions. Among the most powerful, the Mangaaka was considered the "king" and "master", supreme arbiter of conflicts and protector of communities, and became the most ambitious and monumental sculptural genre.
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