African art > Statues > Maternity Kongo Pfemba
Maternity Kongo Pfemba (N° 11855)
Under-group of the Kongo ethnic group, the Yombe are characterized by a statuary with round or pointed headdresses, a mouth open on tapered teeth, and eyes in which the pupils are clearly visible. Scarifications in relief adorn the bust of effigies. Fertility and progeny, central themes of African cultures, are addressed through this motherhood or phemba. The mother sits in a suit on a stool, and breastfeeds her child. In order to activate its forces, the nganga had to insert a nail or blade into the object. The patina is smooth, shiny, mahogany red. In the 13th century, the Kongo people, led by their king Ne Kongo, settled in a region at the crossroads between present-day DRC, Angola and Gabon. Two centuries later, the Portuguese came into contact with the Kongo and converted their king to Christianity. Although monarchical, the Kongo political system had a democratic aspect because the king was actually placed at the head of the kingdom following an election held by a council of tribal governors. This king, also known as ntotela, controlled the appointment of court and provincial officials.