African art > African statues : tribal fetish, maternity > Hemba figure
Hemba figure (N° 21910)
Commemorating a local chief, in charge of interceding towards men with the gods, this Hemba tribal art figure stands out for its haughty bearing. Sculpted details have been rendered with meticulous care.
Soft satin patina, kaolin residue.
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Generally made in iroko, these ritual sculptures were venerated by a particular clan and stored in rooms for funerary use in the chief's house.
Matte grey-brown patina. Desication cracks, and numerous erosions.
The Hemba, established in the south-east of Zaire, on the right bank of the Lualaba, were for a long time subjected to the neighboring Luba empire, which had on their culture, their religion and their art a certain influence. Ancestor worship, whose effigies have long been attributed to the Luba, is central to Hemba society. Genealogy is indeed the guarantor of privileges and the distribution of land. All aspects of the community are imbued with the authority of the ancestors. Thus, these are considered to have an influence on justice, medicine, law and sacrifices.
The singiti statues were kept by the fumu mwalo and honored during ceremonies during which sacrifices were offered to them. Alongside the authority of the hereditary chiefs, secret societies, masculine such as the bukazanzi, and feminine, the bukibilo, played a major role within the clan.
(Source: "Treasures of Africa, Tervuren Museum; "Black African Tribal Art" J.B. Bacquart; "Congo River", F.Neyt)
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