Hemba ancestor figure (Front view)
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Item : Hemba ancestor figure, Picture : Front view (approx. 22 Kbytes)

This statue represents a standing male figure, the hands clasped on the abdomen. The sculpture, all in curves, expresses both an infinite softness and a great interiority. The features of the face are fine and regular : almond eyes, right and pointed nose, the curvilinear mouth following the oval of the chin. A cruciform motif carved in shallow relief decorates the heavy coiffure (see attached pictures).
The Hemba place wooden ancestor figures, called singiti, in small huts which protect the figures from the elements. Many of these huts contain several figures. The figure expresses the dependence of the world of the living on that of the dead, and is thus a funerary and religious symbol. It indicates the ownership of the land and the possession of social authority, both of which are based on the organization of clans and lineages. Even the wood, out of which many of these figures are carved, iroko, possesses a religious significance. These statues are receptacles for the spirits of the dead as well as being the source of life force for their descendants.

19th century.

Origin : Purchased from a private collection, Belgium

Object #5399

Origin :

D. R. Congo (Mbalula area)

Type :


Ethnic group :


Material :

Wood, exceptional and aged patina, both crusty and glossy, raffia skirt

Size :

H = 12.9 inches

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