Angola / D.R.Congo
A Chokwe “Janus” male and female figure
The precise context in which this figure was used is impossible to ascertain, since Janus figures are not restricted to any single domain. They may be used for divination, or as part of a chief's royal treasury, or for religious veneration and invocation. This fascinating wooden male and female double ancestor figure is joined back to back, connected by the double sided coiffure.
For a facial comparison see: Chokwe! Art and Initiation among Chokwe and related People Prestel, Manual Jordan ”No 70 Mask representing a male ancestor”.
Provenance: acquired from Kuba king N'boeupe Mabiintsh III and is part from the Royal treasury.
Ref no: 113
A Lega mask with fibre beard and aged traces of pigment (kaolin)
Height 24cm overall 77cm
The Lega people live in the virgin forest of eastern D.R.C., between the great lakes and the Lualaba River in the Kivu province, by the mid-19th
century Arab slave traders were raiding Lega's territory.
The Lega are living off fishing, farming and hunting especially the elephant, with explains
the large number of ivory in the Lega statuary.
This mask was the insignia of the second highest grade "yananio".
The Lukwakongo mask is used by the
Bwami society ("lutumbo Iwa yananio" a bearded representation of a stylized ideal man) in their dramatic performances and to numerous social, jurally,
moral, or philosophical principles.
It may be carried in the hand fixed to the side of the face, attached to the side or back of a hat, placed in a
linear grouping with similar masks, heaped in a pile with other masks, dragged by is beard or attached to a fence with other objects.
symbolize specific relationships between living and dead members or special ties between living initiates who inherit masks from each another.
paint (pembe) was used by many African tribes, either to evoke spirits or as sign of mourning.
In the greatest Lega art minimalist features contrast
with a monumental carving style.
In addition to its remarkable size, the thickness of the face and the deep caramel patina, which has been whitened
with kaolin, this mask has also retained its long and dense luzelu vegetable fibre beard.
Although they share certain stylistic and morphological
characteristics with the small Lukwakongo masks, idimu, masks are reserved exclusively for the highest rank of the Bwami association.
According to Biebuyck (1994:53), idimu masks were stored in the collective baskets of this grade.
Ref no: 14
A Luba ceremonial staff with female figure
The Luba Empire was characterized by centralized authority vested in a sacred king (mulopwe).
Numerous institutions existed to counter balance the absolute power of the king.
The best known of these institutions is the Bambudye society, whose members are responsible for remembering the history of the kingdom.
The Luba royalty incorporated religious elements into the justification for their rule, like the monarchies of Western Europe.
The legacy of the great empire is still recognizable in the region today, where local customs and art styles often reflect a strong Luba influence.
The Luba people live in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in the provinces of Kasai and Shaba (Katanga).
The Luba, mainly Christian since conversions during colonial times have become an advantaged minority under the recent Kabila regimes first Laurent from 1996, then Joseph since January 2001, both of whom are Luba.
Women in the Luba society held a place of honor.
Besides filling important political positions such as councilors, advisers, ambassadors, and even chiefs, they were also believed to have enhanced spiritual powers.
The Luba are best known for their stools, divination bowls (mboko), beautifully carved bow stands, and memory boards (lukasa).
Ref no: 69
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