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African art > African statues : tribal fetish, maternity > Hemba figure

Hemba Singiti ancestor figure (N° 20320)

This tribal art hemba miniature commemorating a local chief, an intermediary between men and gods, stands out for its camped attitude, carried by reduced legs. The mouth is symbolically inlaid with a nail.

Generally made of iroko, these ritual sculptures were venerated by a particular clan and stored in the funeral rooms of the chief's house. Lustrous brown patina. Desiccation crack. The Hemba, established in southeastern Zaire on the right bank of the Lualaba River, were long subject to the neighboring Luba empire, which had a definite influence on their culture, religion, and art. Ancestor worship, whose effigies have long been attributed to the Luba, is central to hemba society. Genealogy is indeed the guarantor of privileges and land distribution. All aspects of the community are permeated by the authority of the ancestors. Thus, these are considered to have influence on justice, medicine, law and sacrifice. The singiti statues were kept by the fumu mwalo and honored in ceremonies during which sacrifices were offered to them. Alongside the authority of the hereditary chiefs, secret societies, male such as the bukazanzi , and female, the bukibilo ,played a great role within the clan.
(Source: "Trésors d'Afrique, Musée de Tervuren; "L'Art tribal d'Afrique noire" J.B. Bacquart; "Fleuve Congo", F.Neyt)  

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OriginEx-collection Pernas
Countryrdc ex zaire
Material(s)wood, plexi
Weight0.05 Kg
Estimated datingmid-xx°
Socle includedYes

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