Statues, statuettes, figures, figurines, fetishes, sculptures, puppets, dolls, all with some anthropomorphic element, in the collection of antique, classical, ethnic, ethnographic, ethno-tribal, native, ritual, traditional, tribal, so-called "primitive" art from Sub-Saharan black Africa

Clicking on a small photo brings you a bigger photo.

The attributions of the origin of the objects is based on their stylistic characteristics and/or on the data provided by the seller and/or experts, but of course certainty cannot be reached.


to start with: African pieces probably, but with an origin that is not clear

 Statue

not available anymore, sold

The horn on top reminds us of the horns present on many figures/fetishes of the Songye/Songe tribe/people from DRC/Zaire.

Stands up by itself; very heavy wood.

Bought on an auction in Antwerp, Belgium.








 

Male figure statue in wood

light-coloured wood, painted very dark; about 50 cm high

Similar statues of the Ngombe/N'gombe, Ngbandi or Ngbaka tribe/people from Congo/Zaire/DRC have been published, for instance in the book
Jacques Kerchache, Jean-Louis Paudrat, Lucien Stephan, L'art et les grandes civilizations: L'art africain. Paris : Editions Mazenod, 1988, 620 pp., on p. 437.

bought on an auction of African art in Belgium

AVAILABLE








 

Old, wooden statue

NOT available

stands up by itself

bought on an auction of antiques in Antwerp, Belgium, in the 1970's

A photo of this figure has been used on the cover of music recordings: http://godxiliary.com/03.htm

This old sculpture is similar to old statues of human beings created in Tanzania:

Bronze or brass figure / statue of unknown origin

NOT available

A photo of this figure has been used on the cover of music recordings: http://godxiliary.com/03.htm

This is a very elongated female figure so that it the shape is similar to the longer, elongated wooden statues created by the Nyamwezi tribe/people from Tanzania, as illustrated for instance in
Bassani et alii,
Le grand heritage: sculptures de l'Afrique noire.
Paris : Editions Musee Dapper
1992
p. 249.

Those statues inspired the modern European sculptor Giacometti who also created elongated human figures.









 

Old, long wooden figure post / pole / poteau

Some traces of feathers can be seen, indicating that the piece was probably covered with the remains of sacrifices.

The lower part is rotten away partly and is discolored, indicating that it was put in the soil/ground by the users.

This practice is found in many places in Africa, for instance in West-Africa where the Ewe and the Fon make famous so-called Boccio/Bochio/Bocie.

Cowries and dry red seeds are used in many objects made by tribes living in West-Africa.

The face is indicated with simple means, but it radiates a burning power and dignity.

This piece is about 80 cm high

bought on an auction in Belgium








 


Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso is located at the southern edge of the Sahara Desert, with national boundaries drawn by the French during the colonial era.
It is a dry, landlocked country.
It is independent since 1960.
Burkina Faso is one of the most economically impoverished countries in the world.
In terms of cultural traditions and diversity, it is one of the richest places on earth.
Burkina Faso's population is made up of more than sixty different ethnic groups, including Bwa, Bobo, Kassena, Lela, Lobi, Mossi (Moossi, Mosse), Nuna, Nunama, Tousian/Tousiana/Toussian/Toussiana/Tusyan, Turka, and Winiama.

The art of Burkina Faso has been described clearly and well structured by
Christopher D. Roy, Professor of Art History, The University of Iowa,
The Art of Burkina Faso,
a text that has been available free of charge through the WWW
http://www.uiowa.edu/~africart/Art%20of%20Burkina%20Faso.html
However, only few photos are included.

"The peoples of Burkina Faso create a wide range of objects, diverse in form, function, size and scale, and employing many different materials and technologies. Within their original contexts, art works are valued not only for their aesthetic qualities, but also for their functional efficacy. In Burkina Faso, art is not just something to look at, but also serves life-sustaining purposes, vital to the well-being of individuals and the larger society.
When Mossi cavalrymen established their kingdom over the central plateau region of what is now Burkina Faso centuries ago, they subjugated indigenous populations. Even today, within Mossi society, descendants of the cavalrymen known as Nakomse tend to hold political power while descendants of the original population known as Tengabisi tend to hold religious authority.
Masking traditions are associated with the Tengabisi among the Mossi, and with the fiercely independent, politically decentralized peoples to the south and west who were never conquered by the Mossi, including the Bwa, Bobo, Kassena, Lela, Lobi, Nuna, Nunama, Toussian, Turka, and Winiama.
In Burkina Faso as elsewhere in Africa, with few exceptions, only men wear masks. In rural regions, masquerade performances take place on various occasions including for village purification ceremonies, during initiations, at market-day celebrations, and for funerals and harvest festivals. In recent decades, masks also have begun to perform in urban settings at popular new celebrations as at the biennial national mask festival, for national holidays, and at FESPACO, the Pan-African film festival held every other year in Ouagadougou, the capital city."









 

Mossi / Moossi people

The Mossi are the largest tribe living in Burkina Faso, with more than 2 million people.
Burkina Faso is the new name of Upper Volta / Haute Volta since 1983.
They live mainly on the central plateau of Burkina Faso.
They cultivate millet and cotton, and rear cattle in the northern savannah regions.

The art of the Mossi tends toward a simplification that is not found among their neighbors.
The blacksmiths-sculptors formed a separate caste and lived in separate quarters; they married exclusively within the caste.

The Mossi are neighbours of the famous Dogon people.
Their art shows many similarities, such as the creation and use of plank masks, that is face masks with a high vertical superstructure.

A chapter is dedicated to the Mossi in
Jacques Kerchache, Jean-Louis Paudrat, Lucien Stephan
L'art et les grandes civilizations: L'art africain.
Paris : Editions Mazenod, 1988, 620 pp.

Detailed scholarly information can be found in the text by Christopher D. Roy, Professor of Art History, The University of Iowa,
The Art of Burkina Faso,
available on the Internet.

"Mossi: Voltaic-speaking, agricultural people, numbering about 2.3 million, living in central Burkina Faso, West Africa. Art-historically best known for their wooden dolls, they also produce masks and crests, wooden and brass figures and a variety of other arts. Examples of Mossi art are held in numerous public collections."
(source = Christopher D. Roy in Grove Dictionary of Art)

"The first Mossi Empire was founded by invaders from northern Ghana. Today, the Mossi are the largest tribe living in Burkina Faso. They number 2,2 to 3,5 million and are the only tribe of Inland West Africa to have a centralized governing body, in addition to clans and professional corporations led by elders known as zaksoba. They are an ethnically diverse people divided into two social groups. Political power resides in nakomze, whose ancestors invaded the region in 15th century and subjected the various autochthonous groups living there. From these arose the tengabisi, a heterogeneous population whose kinship groups have provided the religious leaders of the Mossi to this day. On the north, one encounters a region of Sahelian desert steppes, then further south a zone of tree-field savannas, which gives way to forestland in the deep south. The greater part of the population lives off agriculture and cattle breeding. They grow millet, sorghum, maize, sesame, peanuts, and indigo. Cotton, introduced by the French during the occupation, is also cultivated over large stretches of land. Since the beginning of the century, the family has not been regarded as part of a community, since custom required that, immediately after circumcision, the eldest son leave to live independently from his father. Similarly, the young wife had no status whatsoever until the birth of her first child, which gave her the right to visit her parents. She did not raise her children, who were entrusted to older wives. On the other hand, at the death of a farther, the son would receive the wives and fields of his father.
The blacksmiths-sculptors formed a separate caste and lived in separate quarters; they married exclusively within the caste. They were feared by their neighbors and participated actively in rituals. They made jewelry, metal and wood sculpture, statues, and masks. Brass figures and wooden ancestor figures are controlled by the Mossi ruling elite. Maintaining good relations with the ancestors and a variety of supernatural forces is a major concern of Mossi ritual and motivates art production in the region. Figures are used by the ruling class to validate political power, and masks are used by the conquered peoples to honor the spirits of the wilderness and control the forces of nature. The aristocracy used statues, even though it had adopted Islam in the seventeenth century. For the most part female, linked to the power of the chiefs, these figures commemorated ancestors and were kept inside the hut of the oldest of the wives. They appeared only at the funeral of the sovereign and at the time of the annual sacrifice when the first fruit of the harvest would be offered.
Lineages and clans of the indigenous tengabisi inhabitants own the masks, and only the large group of farmers and the group of smiths employ a variety of masks. Mossi sculptors are mostly famous for their polychrome masks. The farmers, “children of the earth” and descendants of the autochthones, still use huge masks; formerly, these masks were regarded as the seat of the spirit, but they might also represent the totemic animal of the clan. Each family would refer to an appropriate myth explaining the mask’s origin: generally, it was most often a catastrophe that had brought a sacred animal, or even a god, to make a gift of a mask to an ancestor, the power of mask allowing the restoration of order within the clan; then, too, at the ancestor’s death the mask would become the material structure of his soul. These masks made their appearance several times during the course of the year: they would escort the dead, thus helping them to join the world beyond. They preside over the sacrifices offered at the beginning of the rainy season, which were to insure the community a good millet crop and harvest of wild fruits. They “supervised,” before the first harvest, the deference given to planted seeds corresponding to a period of famine. Between “appearances,” the masks remained on the family shrine, where they received prayers and sacrifices for those members of the family who were in need, and they aided communication with the ancestors."
(source = zyama.com WWW site, 2003)







 

 

Wooden biiga (biga) or Mossi fertility doll (Fruchtbarkeitspuppe)
of the Mossi people of Burkina Faso

bought on an auction of tribal, primitive art in Antwerp

not available anymore, gone, sold

stands up by itself

Mossi dolls / figures are called "biga" or “biiga”. "Biiga" means child.
Most dolls are carved from light wood and are painted black or dark brown.

This example is executed in the Kaya style described in the text by Roy quoted below and as illustrated in the scarce and expensive book
Roy, Christopher
Traduction et adaptation en Francais F. Chaffin
Art of the Upper Volta rivers
Paris
Meudon
1987
384 pp.
325 ills & 16 col. plts.
Cloth
, d/j.
Text in English and French
 

Some examples are shown in the book

Lynn Cameron
Isn’t S/he A Doll?
1996.

and in

Jean-Baptiste Bacquart,
The Tribal Arts of Africa,
Thames & Hudson, 1998; ISBN: 0500018707.

Brookhaven College Center For the Arts Forum Gallery:
Of Power and Spirit: African Art From a Dallas Collection
January 6 - 29, 1997 Curator's Essay David Newman, Gallery Director
http://home.earthlink.net/~davidrnewman/africart.htm :
The Mossi Doll is similarly polysemic, with aspects associated with fertility. This example of Mossi doll, of wood and leather, exhibits the high degree of abstraction of torso and limbs typical of dolls (and of Luba katatora divination implements).24 Wood is the traditional material: hence the name for the dolls is raog'biga, "child in wood."25 Mossi dolls generally share a basic cylindical form; limbs are rarely represented. All the dolls are female and usually have pendulent breasts. The distinctive aspect of Mossi dolls, serving to distinguish geographical regions and individual carvers, is the shape of the head. Typically a semicircle with the flat diameter parallel to the ground plane, when viewed frontally the plane of the semicircle is perpendicular to the axis of the torso; indication of a face, when present, thus appear on the edge of the form.26 In this instance, the incised indication of facial features and hair extend to the rear of the head, although the concentration is on the face itself. Wooden Mossi dolls are purchased by mothers for their daughters, who cover the doll with leather and decorate them with beads or shells; here, a twisted pair of leather strips circles the neck and extends to an attached fringed leather tassel.27 Ladislas Segy notes:

In spite their role as toys, they [the dolls] are subject to religious considerations. The young 'girl-mother' considers the doll a child (biga) and has to pay close attention to it. Hence, any damage to the doll, although accidental, calls for consultation with the diviner, who knows invisible things hidden from ordinary people. For this reason, the dolls are handled with great care. They are passed down from sister to sister, from mother to daughter, sometimes from a remote great-grandmother. The Mossi dolls are also used the first time a mother gives birth to a child. She has to wash the doll she played with in childhood before washing her own child. The doll is considered the first child of each young girl.28

Although the dolls are toys aiding in the education of the young girl for motherhood, the doll remains important into adult life: when a woman leaves her father's compound for the house of her husband, the doll is taken with her, enabling her to become pregnant within a month of her initial sexual experience. According to Suzanne Lallemand's informants, the doll is the yisa biiga (literally " to call the child") to permit the soul of the new infant to enter the world of its parents, and the gidga ti da biiga lebera me (literally, "to prevent the child from returning"), assuring that the child will not die and thus return to the realm of the ancestral spirits.29


 

"To the north of the Ashanti, among the Mossi people in Burkina Faso, dolls are used as toys by little girls just as they are all over the world. All Mossi dolls share the same basic cylindrical form, with arms and legs rarely represented, and all are female, usually with very pendulous breasts. The head is generally composed of a semicircle with the flat side down. In all cases, the shape of the head is simply a stylization of the gyonfo, a tri-lobed women's hairstyle. Occasionally, a small piece of light-colored metal, intended to represent a comb, is inserted into the hair. Lines are incised on the figures to represent braids, and characteristic traditional scars. In addition, there is always a small hole in the base to represent the anus, and the labia and vulva may be indicated. Some dolls are wrapped in hide to give a more naturalistic appearance.
Although the dolls are quite abstract and roughly carved, they accurately reproduce the most important physical attributes of the young Mossi mother. The bins-kordo ("sack-breasts") produced by the technique called peebo ("to draw out") are represented. After the birth of the first child, the older women who have assisted in the delivery vigorously massage the mother's breasts to facilitate lactation. The stretched breasts are a desirable symbol of motherhood. In addition, incised markings on the chest and stomach of the dolls accurately reproduce the cosmetic scars that every respectable Mossi girl receives as she approaches puberty. Scars that radiate from the umbilicus are added following the birth of the first child.
It is quite common to see dolls in Mossi compounds, where they often lie abandoned in a corner, dusty, worn, and of a uniform, unattractive dull gray. They appear to have been kicked around on the ground for years. Little girls play with dolls that they or their parents or older sisters have manufactured from found objects. Dolls may be made from roughly carved sticks, short sections of millet stalk with a blob of mud for the head, rolled-up cardboard, or a corncob with the dried husks braided into an elaborate hairstyle, very similar to 19th century American corncob dolls. Many children in wealthy families, especially in the larger towns, play with more prestigious plastic baby dolls imported from Taiwan or Ghana.
Although many of the dolls are playthings that aid the education of the child, others are of greater importance for adult women. When a woman leaves her father's compound for the home of her new husband, the wooden figure is carried along. A woman who has not been able to conceive a child after a reasonable period will bestow all of the normal maternal attentions on a wooden biiga, even to the point of feeding it, washing it, clothing it, and carrying it in public tied on her back in a baby wrapper. If she bears a child, she will continue to lavish attention on the doll. The first drops of the mother's milk are offered to the doll, and before the new baby is placed on his mother's back for the first time, the wooden figure is tied there for the last time."
(http://artqtserver.art.uiowa.edu:8080/Art%20and%20Life%20CD/Index.html

The following text in French is adapted from
Daniela Bognolo
Arts d'Afrique, Editions Gallimard/Dapper, 2000:
Ces sculptures, dont l'utilisation est à la fois sacrée et profane, présentent une conception plastique hautement maîtrisée qui, simplifiant à l'essentiel la forme, en développe les éléments fondamentaux avec équilibre et légèreté. Le cou de la figurine est toujours fort long. L'absence de bras et de jambes renforce la primauté d'autres parties du corps, à savoir les seins et la tête, synonymes les uns de gestation, l'autre de statut, suggéré par la forme de la coiffure. Cette dernière peut évoquer le zu-rusega, manière de disposer les cheveux en cimier avec l'extrémité postérieure roulée, très appréciée par les femmes mûres et à laquelle les petites filles n'ont pas droit. La longue mèche frontale disposée au milieu du visage des jeunes filles est représentée très régulièrement. Au-dessous de la coiffure, des traits gravés esquissent à peine les linéaments du visage. Les seins, au contraire, sont puissamment développés, pleins et allongés. Leur étirement renvoie à une pratique traditionnelle de massage des seins de l'accouchée, exécutée afin de faciliter la montée de lait. L'image idéalisée d'une future grossesse, considérée comme le moment de plénitude féminine et de perfection absolues, est ainsi montrée. Elle est également soulignée par des scarifications, soigneusement tracées, dont l'accumulation dans la région de l'abdomen focalise le regard sur cette partie du corps, réceptacle de vie et de siiga, parcelle de la substance immortelle des ancêtres que chaque nouveau-né contient en soi, et dont la présence décide de sa destinée.
Le biiga n'est donc pas uniquement une représentation de la beauté féminine, il est aussi conçu pour être le réceptacle privilégié de cette substance immortelle qui permettra une nouvelle naissance. Cet objet, transmis de mère en fille, véhicule un symbolisme complexe. Jalousement gardé par la jeune épouse, il deviendra par la suite le jouet de sa fillette, dont le comportement sera étroitement surveillé par un entourage féminin omniprésent : négliger la " poupée ", c'est négliger sa propre personne et celle du bébé qu'elle pourra, à son tour, mettre au monde et dont la naissance est étroitement liée à la vertu de l'objet d'abriter un nouveau siiga. Le biiga symbolise donc une réalité qui veut se substituer à l'enfant pour le précéder dans le temps : il est à la fois le support matériel de la substance immortelle d'un ancêtre ; de la partie agissante et impersonnelle de la parcelle de cette substance que l'enfant recèle; de la nouvelle substance immortelle qui permettra une future naissance. On pourrait presque dire que le biiga semble être conçu pour conforter le rêve caché de toute femme mooga : la transmission d'une parcelle de la substance ancestrale de la "mère mythique", Yenenga.

A scientific article about Mossi dolls: C. D. Roy: ‘Mossi Dolls’, Afr. A., xiv/4 (1981), pp. 47–51, 88.

 

A long text entitled
The art of Burkina Faso
by Christopher D. Roy, Professor of Art History The University of Iowa, is available through the WWW from
http://www.uiowa.edu/~africart/Art%20of%20Burkina%20Faso.html

The following text fragments are quoted from Roy (2002).

Mossi Dolls

The most numerous Mossi sculpture in public and private collections outside Burkina Faso are small, wooden Mossi dolls.

All Mossi dolls share the same basic cylindrical form, with arms and legs rarely represented, and all are female, usually with very pendulous breasts. The head is generally composed of a semicircle with the flat side down. In all cases, the shape of the head is simply a stylization of the gyonfo, a tri-lobed women's hairstyle, with the largest, central lobe extending as a crest from the front of the head to the nape of the neck. The smaller shapes on each side of the head represent masses of hair closely braided above each ear. Occasionally, a small piece of light-colored metal, intended to represent a comb, is inserted into the hair. Lines are incised on the figures to represent braids, and characteristic traditional scars. In addition, there is always a small hole in the base to represent the anus, and the labia and vulva may be indicated. Some dolls are wrapped in hide to give a more naturalistic appearance.

Suzanne Lallemand has provided much useful information based on her field experience in Yatenga (1973: 235-46): although the dolls are quite abstract and roughly carved, they reproduce accurately the most important physical attributes of the young Mossi mother. The bins-kordo ("sack-breasts") produced by the technique called peebo ("to draw out") are represented. After the birth of the first child, the older women who have assisted in the delivery vigorously massage the mother's breasts to facilitate lactation. The stretched breasts are a desirable symbol of motherhood. In addition, incised markings on the chest and stomach of the dolls accurately reproduce the cosmetic scars that every respectable Mossi girl receives as she approaches puberty. Scars that radiate from the umbilicus are added following the birth of the first child. Arms, legs, and facial features are not carved because these have nothing to do with the age, sex, ethnic group, and reproductive ability of the woman.

Styles

It is possible to attribute many Mossi dolls to specific geographical origins on the basis of carving styles, the shape of the doll's head being the determinant characteristic. Because a bride takes along her doll when she moves to her husband's patriclan residence, which may be a considerable distance away, the village in which a doll has been collected often is not the village in which the doll was carved, resulting in much confusion when one attempts to correlate styles with geographical origins.

Southwest style: The style that is collected most frequently originates in the village of Ziniaré, northeast of Ouagadougou. The head is a semicircular disc, without facial features, and with a smaller half disc on each side forming the hairstyle. The neck is short and the torso is a simple cylinder mounted on a low pedestal or flaring base. Large numbers of these dolls were sold every day in the Ouagadougou market in 1976-77, but by 1983-5 they had disappeared, because all the carver's production was being purchased by local antiquities dealers, who treat new dolls with grease, soot, and dirt to make them appear old and ship them to Abidjan to sell in "antiquities" boutiques.

Northern Styles: A number of dolls from the Risiam area in the north have very small, disc-shaped heads, and the breasts form an inverted-V when seen from the front. Other dolls from the north have small disc-shaped heads and pendulous breasts but appear much more attenuated than figures from the south. The base of the torso is usually decorated with stacked rings.

The best known carving style is the style of the area of Kaya, in the northeast. The head is placed far forward on the neck so that the line of the back and neck, extending upward and over the top of the head, is an unbroken curve, as is the balancing line from the base of the chin to the tips of the breasts.

Eastern Style: Among the largest and most distinctive dolls are those made in the Boulsa area. A decidedly concave face is carved into a flat, disk-shaped head. The neck is long and cylindrical, and the torso forms a point at the umbilicus. The breasts project downward from very blocky shoulders. A large number of these dolls have been carved by Somyogedê Koudougou in the village of Bonam, north of the town of Boulsa. He frequently sells his dolls in the Boulsa market. His father, Zimwomdya Koudougou, made many dolls of the same style. He died in the early 1970's.

A fifth style, or more correctly, type of doll, bears an S-shaped downward extension of the face. This represents a braid of hair worn by young girls over the forehead, and by older, married women at the back of the head. This shape is not a characteristic of a regional style at all. Although this hairstyle has become unfashionable in recent years, especially in Ouagadougou where woman's hair styles are influenced by fashions in Abidjan and Kinshasa, the style may still be seen in remote Mossi villages far from paved roads. This appendage appears on dolls in several regional styles, and often is braided in leather on hide-covered dolls.

 

Function

It is possible to distinguish two types of dolls: some, with dusty gray surfaces, are used by little girls as toys, others, with glossy, dark surfaces, are carried by women as aids to conception.

 Dolls as Playthings:

It is quite common to see dolls in Mossi compounds, where they often lie abandoned in a corner, dusty, abraded, and a uniform, unattractive dull grey. They appear to have been kicked around on the ground for years. Little girls play with dolls that they or their parents or older sisters have manufactured from found objects. Dolls may be made from roughly carved sticks, short sections of millet stalk with a blob of mud for the head, rolled-up cardboard, or a corncob with the dried husks braided into an elaborate hairstyle, very similar to 19th century American corncob dolls. Many children in wealthy families, especially in the larger towns, play with more prestigious plastic baby dolls imported from Taiwan or Ghana.

Although the dolls have the physical characteristics of the ma ("mother"), they are still called biiga ("child"), and the young girls who carry them affirm that they are children. They give them names, both masculine and feminine, cover them with bits of cloth, and bounce them on their knees.

Meurer claims that the wooden or corncob dolls are cared for as if they were real children. If a young girl mistreats her doll, later her own children will become ill or die. My own research leads me to believe that Meurer overstates the case, and that little importance is given to the way the child handles the doll. Older women use the dolls as didactic devices, instructing the child in how to care for and feed an infant, but they realize that little girls are easily distracted by other children or daily tasks in the family home, and the doll may be abandoned for the moment.

Many Mossi simply state that the doll depicts the child as she hopes someday to be. The doll is a stereotype of the ideal Mossi woman, and the child dresses her plaything in bits of cloth and cheap earrings just as a child in our own culture dresses and coifs her "Barbie" doll. Mossi girls, like American girls, relate easily to images of beautiful women, which serve as sexual rôle models with which they can act out their fantasies about the future.

Dolls as Aids to Conception:

During excision ceremonies, girls are given a piece of millet stalk, later replaced by a corncob with a plaited coiffure. The girls show their dolls to adult women who say "may God give you many children." The straw doll is carried on the back, and after the excision ceremony it is placed in a hut until the young woman marries. On the night before the wedding she gives it to her younger sister (1964: 28,29 ill. 2a).

Although many of the dolls are playthings that aid the education of the child, others are of greater importance for adult women. Lallemand notes that when a woman leaves her father's compound for the home of her new husband, the wooden figure is carried along; it will permit the wife to become pregnant within a month of her first conjugal sexual experience. A woman who has not been able to conceive a child after a reasonable period will bestow all of the normal maternal attentions on a wooden biiga, even to the point of feeding it, washing it, clothing it, and carrying it in public tied on her back in a baby wrapper. If, through the associative power of her actions, she bears a child, she will continue to lavish attention on the doll. As soon as the umbilical cord of her first child has been cut, the wooden biiga is washed and anointed with shea butter and placed on a mat beside the mother, followed a little later by the newborn infant. The first drops of the mother's milk are offered to the doll, and before the new baby is placed on his mother's back for the first time, the wooden figure is tied there for the last time.

The wooden doll has two major functions: it is the yisa biiga ("to call the child") that permits the infant's soul to enter the world of his parents, and the gidga ti da biiga lebera mê ("to prevent the child from returning") that assures that the child will remain with his mother and clan and not return to the world of ancestral spirits (Lallemand 1973: 240-241).

My own research confirms Lallemand's findings, and in addition makes it clear that when a woman lavishes attention on a wooden doll in the expectation of soon conceiving a child, the message may be directed to the ancestors of her patriclan or to the kinkirsi (sing. kinkirga)--spirits or "genies" that inhabit the bush or large trees near the compound residence. Believed to resemble small humans, the kinkirsi are a bright, malevolent red, and are universally feared by the Mossi, who frequently offer sacrifices to gain their protection. The Mossi also attribute to these spirits the power to increase fertility in women. They believe that it is a kinkirga entering a woman that causes her to conceive, and if she is unable to do so she or her husband must offer a sacrifice to a kinkirga so that it will come to their aid. Because these spirits are believed always to travel in pairs, they are responsible for the birth of twins, which are also called kinkirsi. According to Mangin...being of different sexes, the kinkirsi can unite in marriage and bear offspring. They especially have the ability to produce twins, which is why twins are given their name and dedicated to them; it is felt that the spirits live in the twins. The birth of twins causes their mother much embarrassment, and in the past both were sometimes done away with, although sometimes only one was killed" (Mangin 1921: 81).

Mossi women do not want to bear twins, for multiple births are associated with animals. Yet, because the kinkirsi are responsible for the birth of twins, the implication is that any woman who asks them for children is most likely to bear twins. The Mossi, however, deny this. The Mossi woman seems to be confronted by a dilemma similar to that faced by American women who take fertility drugs as aids to conception and risk bearing triplets. Elder Mossi women state that the wooden doll a woman uses to signal her desire for a child represents neither the ancestral spirits nor the kinkirsi.

Although dolls may be used as fertility aids by women who have had difficulty conceiving, and thus acquire the successive applications of vegetable oil that produce a dark, shiny surface, most are used by little girls as playthings. Few parents attach any real importance to the way the child treats the doll, and it is a mistake to overemphasize the symbolism associated with most of these toys.

Dolls are among the best examples of the Mossi sculptor's skillful stylization of human form.

Mossi dolls are carved by smiths during the dry season, when the craftsman has plenty of time free from work in his fields. Made in the smith's compound, they are then carried from one local market to another, or sometimes to important markets great distances away (but where the vendor can still identify their origin). They may also be carved on special order. A dozen figures or more may frequently be displayed at once in some markets, for smiths produce them in large numbers in their spare time. Prices for new dolls range from 10 to 75 CFA (.05 to .35 cents US) depending on their size. Although many are being created solely for the tourist trade, these pale copies are easy to identify.

There are remarkable formal similarities between Mossi dolls and the akua ma of the Ashanti and dolls made by the Bagirmi near Lake Chad. The Nakomsé are said to have emigrated from the area of Lake Chad westward to Dagomba, where they came in contact with the Ashanti. Perhaps the dolls of these three peoples share common origins.

end of quotation

 

The piece shown comes closest to the following style described by Roy:

“The best known carving style is the style of the area of Kaya, in the northeast. The head is placed far forward on the neck so that the line of the back and neck, extending upward and over the top of the head, is an unbroken curve, as is the balancing line from the base of the chin to the tips of the breasts.”

"The most famous Mossi art objects are the small, stylized figures that little girls play with as dolls. These are carved in a variety of styles, but all consist of a cylinder of wood with a semicircular head and pendulous breasts; legs and arms are almost never included. Virtually all the figures are female. They are made to be used as playthings by Mossi girls, who call them biiga (‘child’) and treat them as they will their own children when they become women. The doll is washed, fed, dressed, put to bed at night, and even given the enema that is a common feature of Mossi infant care. The dolls are cared for only as long as the little girl maintains her interest; when she is distracted the toy may be abandoned in a corner of the family courtyard. Little or no importance is attached to the way a child treats her doll and they become dusty, abraded and worn. Such figures represent the largest proportion of the dolls in museum collections outside Burkina Faso.
There are also, however, other small dolls that are used by young women with problems of fertility. A woman who has just married but is having trouble conceiving her first child may carry a doll, like those used by little girls, tucked in the cloth wrapper at her back. She may carry the figure for days or weeks, and when she finally bears a child, the doll is placed on her sleeping-mat next to her, before being replaced by the newborn infant. Dolls that have been used for fertility purposes are carefully cared for and passed on from generation to generation, acquiring a dark, glossy patina that is quite different from the dusty grey surface of girls’ playthings.
Like Mossi masks, dolls can be assigned to geographic style areas. Such attributions are difficult, however, because dolls are carried by their owners when they marry, sometimes many miles from the village where they were carved. It is possible to purchase dolls directly from the artists who make them—blacksmiths who, as elsewhere in Africa, specialize in carving wood as well as forging iron. Smiths travel from market to market selling their work, but it is possible to question them about their personal styles, and to assign styles to the artists’ villages of origin.
The best known Mossi doll style is produced near the town of Kaya, in the north-east. The curve of the geyonfo hairstyle extends from the front of the head down the back in an unbroken curve and is balanced by the opposing curve of the pendulous breasts. Elsewhere, large numbers of dolls are carved in Ziniare, on the road between Ouagadougou and Kaya. Dolls from Ziniare have a semicircular head with smaller semicircles on each side, forming large masses of hair over the ears. Finally, in the Boulsa area, dolls have a flat, disc-shaped head with a shallow segment carved away to form the face. The shoulders are very square, and the breasts seem to hang from the shoulders."
(source = Christopher Roy in Grove Dictionary of Art)

"The blacksmiths also used to sculpt figures called biiga, often covered in leather and decorated with cowrie shells and beads. The function of these wooden “dolls” goes well beyond game-playing. As an educational toy, the biiga was dressed, washed, and carried on the back or placed on the ground under the mother’s eyes. The biiga has a complex symbolism that, at first glance, seems contradictory: for the little girl it is, at one and the same time, the power that will cause her to have a child and the baby she is learning to care for. The biiga passes from mother to daughter or from sister to sister. Biiga have cylindrical bases; arms and legs are missing, but the pendulous breasts, symbol of motherhood, are accentuated."
(source = zyama.com WWW site, 2003)

"As in many parts of Africa, Mossi dolls function both as secular playthings for children and as spiritually charged sources of fertility for women. Although minimal and abstract in form, these figures nevertheless embody the most fundamental elements of femininity: finely incised lines on the chest, and stomach reproduce cosmetic scarification obtained by adolescent girls; the stretched breasts are a sign of motherhood; and the head shape typifies the gyonfo or tri-lobed hairstyle worn by married Mossi women in which the central lobe extends from the front to the back of the head. The curved extension falling from the forehead of the doll represents a braided lock that a girl wears until she marries. Such dolls may have been commissioned from a smith or purchased at the market. They are given to young girls by their mothers. Like dolls in the western world, Mossi dolls are educational toys used to train little girls for their ultimate and important roles as mothers. In addition to their use as toys, Mossi dolls serve also as fertility aids to newly married young women. They serve two important roles in regard to this function. The first permits the child’s soul to enter the world of the their parents, thus inducing pregnancy. The second assures that the child does not die and return to the world of the ancestral spirits, but will remain with their mother and clan, thus assuring a healthy life. Should conception result from sacrifices made to the spirits, the mother will continue to nurture the doll just as she does her real child. Once a figure fulfills its purpose, it may be kept as an heirloom or given to the child that it helped bring into the world. The unique sculptural form of the Mossi doll encompasses both the symbols of youth and womanhood, ushering a small girl in to womanhood and a young woman into motherhood."
(source = The Barakat Galery, CA, USA, on the WWW, 2005)

"Die Mossi sind die größte Einwohnergruppe des Landes und wurden sehr spät, etwa Ende des 18. Jahrhunderts zum Islam bekehrt. aber nur 25% der Mossi sind Moslems und ausserhalb der Städte sind die alten Religionen noch lebendig. Die Fruchtbarkeitspuppen der Mossi sind immer abstrakt geschnitzt, haben einen scheibenförmigen Kopf wie die Akuaba der Akwanshi, nur zeigt sich die Scheibe im Profil und auch die Brüste sind unterschiedlich gestaltet."
(source = WWW site of Afrikanische Kunst, Dusseldorf, 2005)

 

 

"Ces sculptures, dont l'utilisation est à la fois sacrée et profane, présentent une conception plastique hautement maîtrisée qui, simplifiant à l'essentiel la forme, en développe les éléments fondamentaux avec équilibre et légèreté. Le cou de la figurine est toujours fort long.
L'absence de bras et de jambes renforce la primauté d'autres parties du corps, à savoir les seins et la tête, synonymes les uns de gestation, l'autre de statut, suggéré par la forme de la coiffure.
Cette dernière peut évoquer le zu-rusega, manière de disposer les cheveux en cimier avec l'extrémité postérieure roulée, très appréciée par les femmes mûres et à laquelle les petites filles n'ont pas droit.
La longue mèche frontale disposée au milieu du visage des jeunes filles est représentée très régulièrement. Au-dessous de la coiffure, des traits gravés esquissent à peine les linéaments du visage. Les seins, au contraire, sont puissamment développés, pleins et allongés. Leur étirement renvoie à une pratique traditionnelle de massage des seins de l'accouchée, exécutée afin de faciliter la montée de lait. "
...
"Le biiga n'est donc pas uniquement une représentation de la beauté féminine, il est aussi conçu pour être le réceptacle privilégié de cette substance immortelle qui permettra une nouvelle naissance.
Cet objet, transmis de mère en fille, véhicule un symbolisme complexe. Jalousement gardé par la jeune épouse, il deviendra par la suite le jouet de sa fillette, dont le comportement sera étroitement surveillé par un entourage féminin omniprésent : négliger la " poupée ", c'est négliger sa propre personne et celle du bébé qu'elle pourra, à son tour, mettre au monde et dont la naissance est étroitement liée à la vertu de l'objet d'abriter un nouveau siiga.
Le biiga symbolise donc une réalité qui veut se substituer à l'enfant pour le précéder dans le temps : il est à la fois le support matériel de la substance immortelle d'un ancêtre ; de la partie agissante et impersonnelle de la parcelle de cette substance que l'enfant recèle; de la nouvelle substance immortelle qui permettra une future naissance.
On pourrait presque dire que le biiga semble être conçu pour conforter le rêve caché de toute femme mooga : la transmission d'une parcelle de la substance ancestrale de la " mère mythique ", Yenenga."

Texte de Daniela Bognolo extrait de Arts d'Afrique, éditions Dapper

 

 

 

 

Wooden biiga (biga) or fertility doll (Fruchtbarkeitspuppe) not covered with leather
of the Mossi people of Burkina Faso

  

Wood

height = 15 cm

On a professional black wooden stand

not available

 







 

Wooden biiga (biga) or fertility doll (Fruchtbarkeitspuppe) not covered with leather
of the Mossi people of Burkina Faso

not available

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wooden biiga (biga) or fertility doll (Fruchtbarkeitspuppe) not covered with leather
of the Mossi people of Burkina Faso

not available

bought from an African arts antique dealer in Dakar, Senegal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wooden biiga (biga) or fertility doll (Fruchtbarkeitspuppe) not covered with leather
of the Mossi people of Burkina Faso

not available

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wooden biiga (biga) or fertility doll (Fruchtbarkeitspuppe), not covered with leather
of the Mossi people of Burkina Faso

not available

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wooden biiga (biga) or fertility doll (Fruchtbarkeitspuppe), not covered with leather,
of the Mossi people of Burkina Faso

not available

bought on an auction of tribal art in Antwerpen, Belgium

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wooden biiga (biga) or fertility doll (Fruchtbarkeitspuppe) not covered with leather,
of the Mossi people of Burkina Faso

not available

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Wooden biiga (biga) or fertility doll (Fruchtbarkeitspuppe), covered with black leather,
of the Mossi people of Burkina Faso

not available

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wooden biiga (biga) or fertility doll (Fruchtbarkeitspuppe) covered with black leather,
of the Mossi people of Burkina Faso

not available

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anthromorphic Mossi staff or scepter

bought from a collection of African art, on an auction of antiques in Antwerpen / Antwerp, Belgium
wood and shiny patina
very scarce
NOT available

http://archive.yale-gvr-aaa.org Yale African art archive number 0120687








 


Burkina Faso & Ivory Coast & Mali

Lobi people

Statue representing a woman

Probably a Bateba altar figure.

Very angular, cubistic

not available anymore, sold








 

Lobi statuette, figure

not available

Bought from a German collection.









Statuette, mother & child = maternity = maternité

not available

Bought from a German collection.











 


Cameroon / Camerun / Kameroon


Bamun/Bamoun or Tikar tribe/people

Small clay/terracotta pygmy figure

NOT available

stands up by itself

bought from an older collection on an auction of African art in Antwerp, Belgium

"In Bamoun country, there live Pygmies which look like these little figures. Being "of the forest," Pygmies are known to have a mystical closeness with the forces of nature. Bamoun people keep Pygmy terracotta figures like these within their homes for the protection of the family. These figures are also believed to bring good harvests and to increase family wealth. They give special protection to children, keeping them safe from harm, illness and bad dreams."

"Such clay figures are known as house gods. The Tikar have produced these clay figures to represent the spirits of pygmies known as the first occupants of their region. The Tikar believe these spirits offer protection, fertility, and good luck. The Tikar also seek the assistance of this house gods during any healing process. Sacrifice and offerings are regularly conducted by the owner to honor these gods and to renew their power.
These clay figures come in various forms: standing, sitting, kneeling.
Some of them have holes in the back for offerings; some have clay rings around necks, waists, wrists or ankles; some are made in the form of rattles or lamps."

The grassland region in Southwest Cameroon is one of the most artistically rich areas of Africa. Only 250,000 Tikar people remain.








 

Dowayo / Doyayo / Doohyaayo / Dowayayo / Doyaayo / Doyau / Donyayo / Donyanyo / Doayo / Dooyayo / Dooyaayo / Doowaayo / Tunga / Tuuno / Tungbo / Nomai / Namji / Namshi / Namchi / Namci people/tribe
from north-west Cameroon/Camerun/Kameroon, close to Nigeria

Doll

not available

bought from an old Belgian collection on an auction of traditional African art in Antwerp, Belgium

The Dowayo/Namji people/tribe is famous for their wooden dolls. They are carved from solid hardwood by specialists. Most have a head that is small, tiny, relative to the body. Some are carved with geometric features and adorned with cowry shells, coins, metal strips, fiber, leather, and metal or multi-coloured bead necklaces.
The dolls are held by girls to play, to ensure their fertility, and to prepare the young woman for her role as mother in her future life; the doll would have a name, be fed, be talked to and be carried strapped to the back everywhere the child would go. Some dolls were used for healing and magical purposes and were ‘charged’ with magical substances.
Many modern, non-authentic pieces of lower quality are available on the market.

The dolls are all planar, 2-dimensional, but 2 types can be distinguished:

This belongs to the concave, angular type.

It's shape and patina make this one a high quality piece in comparison with the numerous other ones that I have seen.

These and other dolls from Africa are described in books:

"Namji is the people inhabiting an area in the West of the north Cameroon. The Namji tribe is famous for their wooden dolls carved with geometric features and adorned with multi-colored bead necklaces, cowrie shells, coins, metal strips, fiber and leather. The dolls held by Namji girls of Cameroon to play and to ensure their fertility, are considered among the finest and the most beautiful dolls in Africa. They are carved from solid hardwood. The doll would have a name, be fed, be talked to and be carried strapped to the back everywhere the child would go. This doll helped prepare the young Namji woman for her role as mother in her future life. Though most of them represent females, they sometimes appear as couples."
(source = zyama.com WWW site, cited 2002)





 


Congo = DRC  = République démocratique du Congo = Repubblica Democratica del Congo, formerly Zaire & Central African republic

Ngbaka or other people of the Ubangi region

Figure / statue

not available

bought on an auction of antiques in Antwerpen in 1980s








 


Congo = DRC  = République démocratique du Congo = Repubblica Democratica del Congo, formerly Zaire

 

Hemba / Bahemba or Bembe or Kusu or Tumbwe or a neighbouring tribe/people from southeastern Congo

Male ancestor figure, ancestral statue, singiti / lusingiti / songhiti
torse d’ancêtre, Männliche Ahnenfigur mit Bart

Height is about 45 cm.

Many of these figures
- evoke/express respect, dignity, wisdom, symmetry, equilibrium, refinement, the highest moral qualities, a meditative mood, spiritual serenity, a presence that transcends the short period of life
- have a compact body,
- have a relatively large head,
with a high domed forehead, small ears, almond-shaped, closed eyes, a small mouth, a jaw of triangular form, and a collar beard
- have arms free, separated from the body, with hands resting on the lower part of the body,
sculpted in such a way as to highlight the abdomen, the protruding belly that signifies a spiritual link between all members of one lineage
- have very short legs

- are missing most of the legs (due to erosion, insects, termites?)

bought from an older collection on an auction of antiques in Antwerp, Belgium

not available

A similar figure is included in the collection of the Africa-Museum, Tervuren, Belgium.

The Hemba are a small tribe close to the neighboring Luba tribe.
The statues known as Singiti are well known, widely admired, present in major collections and described and published many times, for instance in the chapter "Sur les chemins de la connaissance", par Christiane Falgayrettes-Leveau, in the book
"Arts d' Afrique", sous la direction de Christiane Falgayrettes-Leveau, Musee Dapper, Gallimard, 2000:
"Ces images sculptées puisent leur sens dans leur vocation qui est de se tenir, face a l'invisible, entre l'humain et le surnaturel. C'est dans cette perspective q' il faut saisir l'importance accordée dans les arts de l'Afrique subsaharienne a la représentation figurative, qui tend vers une fin spirituelle. La tache du sculpteur ne le voue pas a reproduire uniquement des archétypes, mais a rendre présents, palpables, les êtres de l'au-delà.
Les sculptures sont, en effet, les signes d'un univers autre. C'est a travers des formes sensibles, familières, que se nouent les relations transcendantes, d'ou la prégnance intime du visage, si proche, si humain, dont les traits n'en recèlent pas moins une dimension "sacrée". Pour l'exprimer, l'exagération est souvent nécessaire et fait même partie des codes plastiques (...).
A ce titre, la sculpture est perçue comme le lieu d'une méditation, l'objet étant valorise non pas en tant que figuration propre, mais pour toutes les données sous-jacentes, qui traduisent de profonds enjeux. Il y a dans ces pratiques de la spiritualité une véritable problématique du surnaturel, mettant tout particulièrement en exergue la notion de transcendance, notion qui induit des relations de proximité, de fusion ou de substitution dans l'ordre de l'humain, de l'animal et du végétal."

The WWW site of the National Museum of African Art in Washington, USA, http://www.nmafa.si.edu/pubaccess/index.htm in 2004, learns us the following:
"The Hemba, like their Kusu and Tumbwe neighbors, are a matrilineal people with a sculptural tradition devoted mainly to representations of male ancestors. Although every figure is the portrait of a specific person, the artist portrays generalized, not particular, individual traits. The figure is meant to reinforce notions about the importance of family continuity and the perpetuation of the clan."

"Ancestor figures that exude strength and stability are commonly produced by the Hemba people, residents of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa. The Hemba have long organized themselves by clan - essentially large families with shared ancestral roots. The ancestors of each clan are therefore important spiritually and politically, and are honored by figurative sculptures such as this one. Ancestor figures (called singiti by the Hemba) provide a literal and symbolic link between past generations and current clan leaders, whose families are entrusted with their ownership and care.
Although Hemba ancestor figures are intended as portraits, they evoke particular individuals only in a generalized way. The identity and importance of the figure are established by its posture and accouterments. Characteristically, this example is symmetrically balanced with a long torso set upon short legs. Also typical is the composed face with almond-shaped eyes, braided beard and backward swept coiffure in a cruciform design.
Ancestor figures are typically kept in a ceremonial hut, where they are the recipients of prayers and offerings. With its open palms resting on each side of the torso, this figure seems ready to accept the attentions of his descendants. In fact, its encrustation and glossy patina suggest that this figure has long been venerated."
Eileen Carr
http://tours.daytonartinstitute.org/accessart/object.cfm?TT=gt&TN=mh&ID=3&COM=ac
[accessed in 2007]

The style of the statues of the Luba and Hemba is idealized, naturalistic and realistic. Therefore they have often been compared with statues made by the ancient Greeks. A well-known type of statues represent predecessors; they are used in the cults of these ancestors.
Many statues of the neighbouring Luba and Hemba tribes show the traditional hairstyle in the form of a cross (Petridis, Constantijn, Frans M. Olbrechts, 1899-1958, Op zoek naar kunst in Afrika, Ethnografisch Museum Antwerpen, 2001, cat. 66).
This hairstyle is not present on this statue.

The statues help to keep the memory of the ancestors; they are kept in the huts of the important persons and are used in celebrations.
Even the "iroko" wood that is used to make the statues carries a religious meaning.

Literature on the Hemba:

Neyt, Louis de Strycker,
Approche des Arts Hemba,
Arts d’Afrique Noire
1974

Neyt, Francois
La Grande Statuaire Hemba du Zaire
Louvain -La-Neuve (Institut Supérieur d'Archéologie et d'Histoire d'Art)
1977


 

Rolin, F.
Luba Hemba,
New York
1979

LUBA/HEMBA,
MUSEUM FÜR VÖLKERKUNDE, FRANKFURT/MAIN
1983

Agthe J.
Luba Hemba, Werke unbekannter Meister, VKM
Frankfurt
1983

The Hemba receive a chapter and photos of good examples of their statues have been published in the book
Jacques Kerchache, Jean-Louis Paudrat, Lucien Stephan,
L'art et les grandes civililitations: L'art africain.
Paris
Editions Mazenod
1988
620 pp.
on pp. 302-307, and pp. 442-443.

Photos of good examples are also shown and described in the books
Bassani et alii,
Le grand heritage: sculptures de l'Afrique noire.
Paris
Editions Musee Dapper
1992
and in the chapter by Constantin Petridis, Les arts du basin du Congo,
in the book Arts d' Afrique, sous la direction de Christiane Falgayrettes-Leveau,
Musee Dapper, Gallimard
2000.

A similar statue has been published as male ancestor figure, Hemba, southeastern Congo, wood, height 56 cm as figure 90 on p. 160 of
Christopher D. Roy
Kilengi: African art from the Bareiss Family collection.
Hanover : Kestner Gesellschaft, and Seattle : University of Washington Press (1997?)
The following text comes as a description with the photo:
"The Hemba are only one of several people who live in southeastern Congo near Lake Tanganyika whose art is devoted primarily to the remembrance of ancestors; these people carve large wooden figures like this one depicting chiefs of clans and lineages with their complex and prestigious hairstyles. Other nearby peoples whose figurative sculpture shares many points of similarity are the Kusu, Bungubangu, Bembe, Boyo, and the Basikasingo clan of the Bembe.
...; all share the narrowing of the torso to allow room for the arms to be separated from the chest, and the large head that mirrors in its diameter the shoulders and abdomen.
...
Such figures, called singiti, were placed in small huts that are models of the homes of the Hemba themselves. These shelter the figures from the weather, and each hut may contain several figures that represent several generations of the male leaders of the community. Like most African sculpture, this figure would have been properly dressed in a cloth wrapper that concealed its gender when it was displayed by its owners."

The WWW site civilisations.ca learns us about the Hemba:
"Les Hemba vivent au nord-est de l'aire culturelle luba, de part et d'autre de la rivière Luika. Ils forment avec une partie des Luba orientaux, les Tabwa et les Boyo une grande aire culturelle et artistique où les variations stylistiques et ethnographiques propres à chaque groupe s'inscrivent dans un vaste système de mutations qui reste encore à décrire. Le culte des ancêtres est dans toute cette région un élément majeur du système religieux. Dans l'art luba où la grande statuaire est marginale, les ancêtres des rois ou des chefs défunts figurent sur les sceptres, lances, sièges et autres insignes. Par contre, les Hemba sont surtout connus pour leur statuaire funéraire. Jadis, une famille légitimait sa position au sein de la vaste structure clanique à laquelle elle appartenait grâce aux figures d'ancêtres qu'elle détenait. Ces sculptures imposantes représentaient littéralement la mémoire des générations passées."

The WWW site of the Detroit Institute of Arts shows a singiti and learns us about the Hemba:
"The Hemba of Zaire created a type of sculpture (called singiti) which were made to honor important departed ancestors. These figures are idealized portraits of specific individuals and were housed in special shrines where they were worshiped and fed offerings so that the living could tap the strong supernatural powers of the dead. The style is very distinctive, the heads having an almost egg-like shape with curved eyebrows and aquiline features giving the figures an aloof expression."

The ethnographica.com WWW site learns us the following:
"Hemba statuary generally takes as model the standing representation of the male ancestor. This specimen illustrates a little known style, no doubt from the northwest of the region, as related by F. Neyt who has made a study of Hemba styles. He characterizes them by their very original skullcap coiffure, formed by parallel rows of small diamond shaped points, on both sides of a median part consisting of successive small rectangles. The face's jaw is of triangular form underlined by a collar of beard. The high domed forehead is surmounted by a diadem finely carved to the hair roots, continuing into a fan of small sculpted pyramids that are reminiscent of diadem models in metal. The almond eyes, sculpted in relief, join at the center of a depression, to each side of the rectangular bridge of the prismatic nose that overhangs the rectangular, protruding mouth. The rounded arms are separated from the trunk and end in fingers indicating the figure's lower abdomen. This position immediately draws attention to a part of the body, around the bulbous and tattooed navel, which evokes the transmission of life through procreation. The singiti ancestor figures express equilibrium, symmetry and refinement in an infinity of models whose sculptural beauty reveals the highest moral qualities. They are called upon by the chief of the clan who is in charge of them, in a dialogue recalling the valiant deeds of the ancestor in return for his benevolence.
Historically, the Luba Empire is said to have developed from a migration led by the Songye king Nkongolo. Rapidly turning tyrant, he was killed by his nephew Kalala Ilunga. His direct successor flunga Lui, had as brother the famous Tshibinda Ilunga, who was himself founder of the Chokwe Empire. This illustrious family is, in myths, at the origin of kingdoms covering a vast region. In the eighteenth century, the Luba Empire-established in the savannas of Shaba, in the southeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo-was geographically very extensive and included numerous provinces governed by members of the royal lineage. They were subject to attack by the Chokwe and the Yeke at the end of the nineteenth century, attacks which in the end succeeded in dismantling Luba power Thus the Hemba located in the northern region of the Luba Empire, for long came under this yoke as well. They are primarily farmers and hunters, and have kept their cultural and religious identify intact over several centuries. The Hemba chiefs, holders of authority over all members of their clan, are also the officiants in charge of the ancestor cult that relies on the use of these magnificent hierarchical figures. These works, noted by their meditative appearance, have made the reputation of their art. Certain families of the royal lineage possess a great number of these funerary effigies, which convey the legitimacy and venerability of their origins."

A good, big, intact and famous example of Hemba ancestor figures is included in the collection of the Ethnographical Museum of Antwerp/Antwerpen, Belgium.

The famous Hubert Goldet collection also contained a Hemba ancestor figure that was sold at the auction in Paris for $171,957.
 





 

 

Lega=Balega=Warega people from eastern DRC, ex-Zaire

http://www.barakatgallery.com /store/index.cfm/FuseAction/ItemDetails/cmdNextItem/21961/ItemID/21961/SubCatID/181/userid/ItemID/PurchaseForm/1.htm :

The Lega people are amongst Africa’s best-known carvers and artists. Currently settled in the Kivu province of the eastern DRC, they believe themselves to be descended from an eponymous ancestor who migrated into the area from what is now Uganda. They are also known as Warega and Balega, based on corruptions of their actual name by neighbouring groups and Arab traders, respectively. They live in small villages and consider themselves parts of distinct lineages, although to outsiders the “Lega” group is a well-defined unit. They are further defined on the basis of their modes of subsistence. The western Lega settled in the forest (malinga), where they rely on hunting and gathering, while the eastern groups live on poor soils, further denuded by their mode of slash-and-burn agriculture.

Lega government is based along the lines of a gerontocracy; and balanced very finely between leading members of different lineages. The Lega believe in a trio of gods named Kinkunga, Kalaga and Kakinga, and that when humans die they will enter a subterranean afterworld known as Uchimu. Social life is structured by three main social institutions: family and kinship (ibuta), circumcision rituals (ibuta) and the Bwami society. Of these, the latter is perhaps the most powerful. It is centred upon the guidance of young people to moral maturity, although it also fulfils a range of other political socio-political, economic and artistic functions. Much of the paraphernalia produced by the Lega pertains to the workings of the Bwami society. Examples include initiation objects – that are sometimes ground away and the resulting dust used as a healing device – isengo (lit. “heavy things” used in healing), binumbi (publicly visible insignia), bingonzengonze (“things of play”) and the large category of sculpted objects/assemblages known as bitungwa. Within the latter there are numerous sub-categories along the lines of size, material, ownership and type. This applies to all manner of objects, especially kalimbangoma and iginga figures. All members of the Bwami own one of these, which is usually cared for, oiled and kept by their wife. The higher the rank, the more impressive the figure. The members of Yananio and the lowest level of kindi own kalmibangoma figures, while the elite members of Kindi and the highest-ranking woman may own iginga (pl. maginga) pieces, which are the most coveted of all initiation pieces.

In general terms, Lega figures are used by members of the Bwami society, who commission the figure with a general description of how it should look (pose, material etc) but who leave the details to the carver. All figures tend to represent aspects of the ideal Lega male – a large forehead, a shaved head (sometimes with a cap) and a straight posture – and are endowed with the characteristics of a Bwami initiate: washed, shining and proud.

 

http://artworld.uea.ac.uk/world-art-studies/africa/cultural-groups-country/lega:

The Lega live in forested country in eastern Zaire. They practise a diversity of craft; carving in wood, bone and especially ivory, pottery, basketry, blacksmithing and the preparation of cosmetic oil and powders. They make a traditional coinage from shells, used particularly for initiation and marriage customs.

The Lega believe in a trinity of deities; two who stand for what is good and creative and one who represents evil and sorcery. Ancestors are the intercessors who can activate the powers for good. Sorcerers and witches activate the power of evil. Divination, always a male technique, locates the source of evil. All women, but few men, are regarded as potential sorcerers.

The Lega have no centralised state or hereditary chief, but each village has its headman. Everyone belongs to an extended patriarchal family, a particular lineage and a clan. The Bwami society, to which both men and women may belong, provides the strength of community and kinship against the forces of evil. Bwami permeates every aspect of Lega activity. It has a hierarchy and grades of membership and rules which also govern all Lega society.

Art works, in conjunction with ritual objects made from animal and forest products, are used in the initiation rites of various Bwami grades. They include masks and maskettes, figures in human and animal form, spoon-shaped objects, miniature knives, sceptres and stools, many of them carved in ivory and bone. They may be insignia of rank or may illustrate virtues and failings and the principles of correct conduct. Many are combined with proverbs and used in songs and dances to illustrate behaviour codes.

It would be misleading to generalise on Lega art style. Faces are usually slightly concave and often egg-shaped or even triangular. Forms are often geometric and linear. Much use is made of tukola (camwood powder) to give a dark red patina to both wood and ivory.
Lega art is very commonly faked.

John Heron Dickson | Dec 1997

Further reading:

Biebuyk, D. 1973. Lega Culture. Berkeley

 

 

Statuette/figurine, perhaps a kalimbangoma figure used in the Bwami society


Bought in 2014 from a collection in France.

Not available.

More information about this type of figurines:

 

Sandra Klopper
Speculations on Lega Figurines
African Arts November 1985, Vol. 19, No. 1: 64-69+88.
Published by: UCLA James S. Coleman African Studies Center
DOI: 10.2307/3336385
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3336385

 

 

 

 

Daniel P. Biebuyck
LA SCULPTURE DES LEGA
Galerie Hélène et Phillipe Leloup - Paris / NewYork
205 pages
89 photos couleurs & noir/blanc
Pour l'exposition: LA SCULPTURE DES LEGA
Du 14 juin au 30 juillet 1994 à la Galerie Hélène et Phillipe Leloup à Paris
Texte bilingue en Français & Anglais
Bilingual French English

sur les différents objets de la culture LEGA du CONGO

Sommaire :

- introduction
- l'association du Bwami
- les objets initiatiques
- les oeuvres d'art lega
- les masques
- les figurines
- les autres objets d'art

Catalogue :
- têtes
- figurines anthropomorphes : Kalimbangoma
- figurines anthropomorphes : Maginga en ivoire
- figurines anthropomorphes : Maginga en bois
- masquettes Mukungu en ivware et en bois
- masquettes Lukwakonfo en bois
- masques Idimu en bois
- masques Muminia en ivoire et en bois
- autres masques
- autres types de sculptures lega
- les cuillères

Bibliographie

« Pour rendre compte de la valeur des pièces présentées dans cet ouvrage, il est nécessaire de restituer l'art lega dans le contexte de l'institution qui lui confère toute sa signification et sa beauté : l'association du Bwami. Notons, dès le départ, que nous ne saurons décrire ici ni la grande variété des rituels du Bwami, ni les multiples variantes que ce dernier présentait dans la vaste région occupée par les Lega. Les données proposées dans cette introduction concernent essentiellement les Lega du sud et du sud-ouest du Zaïre, là où le Bwami avait connu son plus grand essor avant d'être interdit par les autorités coloniales. »





Viviane Baeke Africa Museum, Tervuren
A la recherche du sens du bwami: Au fil d’une collection lega pas comme les autres...
http://www.anthroposys.be/vbaekelegabwami.pdf
"Les masques en bois étaient principalement détenus par les initiés du grade yananio , tandis que la plupart des objets en ivoire ou en os, masques et figurines (ill. 7 et 8), étaient surtout réservés aux hommes du grade kindi , sauf quelques petits ivoires spécifiques, dénommés kalimbangoma , que détenaient également leurs épouses, initiées au grade féminin équivalent, bunyamwa..."





 

 

Elisabeth L. Cameron
Art of the Lega
UCLA Fowler Museum
2001
236 pages
396 color and 14 b/w illustrations, 1 map, 1 chart
Drawing upon diverse sources, including Daniel P. Biebuyck's seminal fieldwork of the 1950s, Elisabeth Cameron investigates the culture and the art of the Lega peoples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Among the Lega, art is only created for and used by the Bwami Society. Bwami is a complex organization consisting of multiple levels, and it forms an essential component of the political, social, and religious structure of the Lega. Within Bwami, artworks are used in conjunction with proverbs, anecdotes, and performances to form complex layered metaphors and to serve as mnemonic devices. As initiates move up through the ranks of the Bwami Society, they are exposed to a variety of different artworks that assist them in recalling a vast corpus of complex aphorisms.
The many beautiful examples of Lega artworks illustrated in this volume are drawn primarily from the Jay T. Last collection and include masks, animals, human forms, miniature tools, and spoons.
9 x 12 inches

Table of Contents:

Forewords

 

10

(2)

Preface: The Collector's Perspective

 

12

(16)

 

Jay T. Last

     

Acknowledgments

 

28

(2)

Introduction

 

30

(3)

PART 1 INTRODUCTION TO THE LEGA AND LAYERED METAPHORS

 

33

(52)

 

The Lega and Their Environment

 

34

(6)

 

The Bwami Society

 

40

(8)

 

Rhetoric, Metaphor, and Mpala

 

48

(14)

 

Artists and Aesthetics

 

62

(6)

 

The Public and the Secret

 

68

(17)

PART 2 VISUAL VOCABULARY

 

85

(135)

 

Found, Assembled, and Utilitarian Objects

 

86

(20)

 

Animal Figures

 

106

(10)

 

Human Figures

 

116

(62)

 

Lega Masks

 

178

(42)

Conclusion: The Mythical versus the Real

 

220

(4)

Appendix

 

224

(2)

Endnotes

 

226

(3)

References Cited

 

229

 

Elisabeth L. Cameron is an assistant professor of art history at the University of California at Santa Cruz.
ISBN 0-930741-88-9, paper

list price $ 40+tax
 

 




Rand
Lega ivory figures Democratic Republic of the Congo
http://www.randafricanart.com/Lega_ivory_figures.html
The iginga statues in ivory are the exclusive and individual property of the initiated association bwami ... In the
absence of information collected at the time of the collection with his owner, it unfortunately impossible to identify
his specific meaning and his name. Of more general manner, all initiated lutumbo lwa kindi possesses at least a
statue of this type, obtained at the time of his accession to this very high rank. According to Biebuyck (in Tervuren,
1995: 381), these statues most often were inherited of a deceased parent after having been displayed on his
grave. Each is associated with a specific aphorism. They "recall the virtues of the initiated past generations, they
maintain rules and moral, social, lawful and philosophical norms defended by their predecessors; they are the links
between the past generations and present [and constitute at last] sacra, sacred objects, fill vital force" (idem).
(Sotheby's 2005)








Similar statuettes:


SOTHEBY'S AFRICAN & OCEANIC ART
SALE N08132  11 Nov 05
LOCATION - New York  

LOT 114

PROPERTY FROM AN AMERICAN PRIVATE COLLECTION
A LEGA IVORY FIGURE

Estimate 5,000—7,000 USD
Lot Sold.  Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium:   9,000 USD

MEASUREMENTS
measurements note
height 5in. 12.5cm

DESCRIPTION
standing, of angular form overall with bands of incised zigzag motifs at the chest and crown, the spherical head pitched forward with
expressive features including a straight mouth and large dotted eyes; fine slightly glossy golden patina.








lot 51

Résultat : 95000 €

STATUE LEGA Congo Ivoire, perles H_15,5 cm
Lot collecté par Robert Defever et transmis par déscendance à l'actuel propriétaire.
Représentant un personnage au corps stylisé, le visage cubiste, les yeux formés par des cercles et la bouche par une incision, le cou est orné d'un collier de perles. Les jambes sont courtes et fléchies, les bras anguleux rattachés au tronc. Dans les grades les plus élevés, les figurines tenaient une place importante. Les petites statues anthropomorphes en ivoire avaient un rôle protecteur et étaient précieusement gardé par l'initié.

http://www.pba-auctions.com/html/fiche.jsp?id=982370&np=1&lng=fr&npp=50&ordre=&aff=4&r=  



 


lot 53
Résultat : 240000 €
IMPORTANT STATUE LEGA
Congo
Ivoire
H_25 cm
Lot collecté par Robert Defever et transmis par déscendance à l'actuel propriétaire.
Le personnage féminin est debout, campé sur des jambes puissantes, le torse cylindrique a la poitrine et un gros ombilic saillant, les bras droits sont détachés du corps, la tête ovoïde est supportée par un cou trapu, la bouche et les yeux sont fortement creusés, le nez massif large et plat, les oreilles décollées et percées. Cette statue constitue certainement, au sein du corpus des ivoires Léga, l'un des plus beaux spécimens du type. Elle se distingue à la fois par la rareté du type, la très grande vigueur de la sculpture et l'intensité de l'expression du visage. Les statues en ivoire iginga sont la propriété exclusive et individuelle des initiés de l'association bwami les plus hauts gradés, les lutumbo lwa kindi. En l'absence d'informations recueillies lors de la collecte auprès de son propriétaire, il est malheureusement impossible d'identifier sa signification spécifique et son nom. De manière plus générale, tout initié lutumbo lwa kindi possède au moins une statue de ce type, acquise lors de son accession à ce très haut grade. Selon Biebuyck (in Tervuren, 1995 : 381), ces statues étaient le plus souvent héritées d'un parent décédé après avoir été exposées sur sa tombe. Chacune est associée à un aphorisme spécifique. Elles rappellent les vertus des initiés des générations passées, elles maintiennent des règles et des normes morales, sociales, juridiques et philosophiques défendues par leurs prédécesseurs; elles sont les liens entre les générations passées et présentes. La patine brun rouge est obtenue lors du rite kibongia masengo, durant lequel les statues sont ointes d'huile et de pigments.

http://www.pba-auctions.com/html/fiche.jsp?id=982372&np=1&lng=fr&npp=50&ordre=&aff=4&r=  


 






 

 

 

Ceremonial comb




not available anymore

Bought from a collection of African art in Dusseldorf, Germany.

On a new, custom made black metal stand, which replaces the older, black stand on the photos.

Shows 2 heads/masks, which occurs in several statues and combs from the Lega.
For instance:
http://www.bs-kunsthandel.de/ausstellungen/1003/html/070.html




 

 

 

 

Luluwa = Lulua = Bene Lulua = Benelulua = Bene Luluwa = Bena Luluwa

statuette

Not available

Provenance:

"Generally speaking, these figures refer to motherhood and celebrate female fertility in the form of a pregnant woman or a mother with a child...The standing sculptures were kept in a basket next to the woman's bed. Sometimes, she carried one or more miniature replicas at her belt or around her neck. The large figures were displayed at each new moon, bathed in the fertile light of that heavenly body. Because they were rubbed nearly every day with a mixture of oil, red earth, and kaolin, the sculptures gradually acquired a glossy patina. The newborn child would, for that matter, later enjoy the same treatment." (p. 167)
Tervuren Museum, Masterpieces from Central Africa

Many references to the Lulua (Luluwa, Bena-Lulua, Bena Luluwa) mention the mbulenga figure as a small figure created upon the birth of a child which serves as a receptacle for magical offerings as well as to be "fed" and to receive applications of tukula and palm oil to secure fortune and beauty for the child. An additional class of seemingly similar objects found among the Lulua (and related and/or neighboring groups such as the Bwa Luntu) are those identified as belonging to the bwanga bwa cibola fertility cult. In addition to the use of female figures, according to Constantin Petridis, male figures and non-anthropomorphic "objects such as horns, snail shells and calabashes filled with magical substances (bishimba)" were also used in cult practices to ensure and protect the pregnancy of women who have experienced previous difficulties in child-bearing or -birth.
Lee Rubinstein








Houten vruchtbaarheidsbeeld in de vorm van een vrouw met kom

Het beeld heeft deel uitgemaakt van een vruchtbaarheidscultus, waarvan de naam verschilt per ondergroep, die tot doel had de vrouwelijke vruchtbaarheid te beschermen en te waken over pasgeborenen en kleine kinderen. Beelden met in hun hand een kommetje of schaaltje, dat gevuld werd met kaolien of porseleinaarde, worden 'lupingu lwa bwimpe' of 'bulenga' genoemd. De beelden waren in bezit van vrouwen die mooie en gezonde kinderen hadden gekregen. Vooral kinderen met een bleke, 'rode' huid waren en zijn bij de Lulua erg geliefd. De littekentatoeages werden in eerste instantie gezien als schoonheidstekens en verwezen naar het concept 'bulenga', door mensenhanden geschapen schoonheid. Een gezonde volmaakte huid stond symbool voor buitengewone morele en fysieke kwaliteiten. Kinderen die aan dit ideaal beantwoordden werden geacht het best gewapend te zijn tegen hekserij en aanvallen van beheksers ook liepen zij weinig kans zelf van hekserij beschuldigd te worden. Lichamelijke gebreken en huidaandoeningen werden als indicaties van hekserij gezien. Men besteedde dan ook veel aandacht aan de dagelijkse verzorging van de huid en het gezicht door ze in te smeren met een mengsel van olie, rode aarde en kaolien. Ze verkregen zo een 'gepolijst oppervlak' wat goed terug te zien is op de beelden. De huid van een vrouw werd echter pas als volmaakt beschouwd wanneer ze van allerlei tatoeagepatronen was voorzien. De beelden waren houders van de geesten van overleden voorouders die als taak hadden te waken over het welzijn van de pasgeboren kinderen, hun afstammelingen. De beelden zijn echter geen voorouderbeelden in de strikte zin van het woord, ze zijn geen afbeeldingen van voorouders, stellen ze niet voor. De esthetische kwaliteiten van de beelden vormde een garantie tegen beheksing en was er op gericht de schoonheid en lichamelijke volmaaktheid van de opgroeiende kinderen te bevorderen. Zowel de sculpturen als de kinderen werden regelmatig ingewreven met rood houtpoeder, rode aarde, regenwater en olie. Bij de beelden werd dit mengsel na elke rituele handeling weer verwijderd om de schoonheid van het gepolijste hout en de tatoeages weer zichtbaar te maken (Petridis 1995: 333-334).

Herkomst Lulua , Democratische Republiek Congo
Inheemse naam Lupingu lwa bwimpe
Datering voor/before 1959 Afmetingen
circa 18,5cm (7 5/16in.)
Inventarisnummer 2829-5
http://collectie.tropenmuseum.nl/Default.aspx








 


Houten vruchtbaarheidsbeeld in de vorm van een vrouw met kom
Het beeld heeft deel uitgemaakt van een vruchtbaarheidscultus, waarvan de naam verschilt per ondergroep, die tot doel had de vrouwelijke vruchtbaarheid te beschermen en te waken over pasgeborenen en kleine kinderen. Beelden met in hun hand een kommetje of schaaltje, dat gevuld werd met kaolien of porseleinaarde, worden 'lupingu lwa bwimpe' of 'bulenga' genoemd. De beelden waren in bezit van vrouwen die mooie en gezonde kinderen hadden gekregen. Vooral kinderen met een bleke, 'rode' huid waren en zijn bij de Lulua erg geliefd. De littekentatoeages werden in eerste instantie gezien als schoonheidstekens en verwezen naar het concept 'bulenga', door mensenhanden geschapen schoonheid. Een gezonde volmaakte huid stond symbool voor buitengewone morele en fysieke kwaliteiten. Kinderen die aan dit ideaal beantwoordden werden geacht het best gewapend te zijn tegen hekserij en aanvallen van beheksers ook liepen zij weinig kans zelf van hekserij beschuldigd te worden. Lichamelijke gebreken en huidaandoeningen werden als indicaties van hekserij gezien. Men besteedde dan ook veel aandacht aan de dagelijkse verzorging van de huid en het gezicht door ze in te smeren met een mengsel van olie, rode aarde en kaolien. Ze verkregen zo een 'gepolijst oppervlak' wat goed terug te zien is op de beelden. De huid van een vrouw werd echter pas als volmaakt beschouwd wanneer ze van allerlei tatoeagepatronen was voorzien. De beelden waren houders van de geesten van overleden voorouders die als taak hadden te waken over het welzijn van de pasgeboren kinderen, hun afstammelingen. De beelden zijn echter geen voorouderbeelden in de strikte zin van het woord, ze zijn geen afbeeldingen van voorouders, stellen ze niet voor. De esthetische kwaliteiten van de beelden vormde een garantie tegen beheksing en was er op gericht de schoonheid en lichamelijke volmaaktheid van de opgroeiende kinderen te bevorderen. Zowel de sculpturen als de kinderen werden regelmatig ingewreven met rood houtpoeder, rode aarde, regenwater en olie. Bij de beelden werd dit mengsel na elke rituele handeling weer verwijderd om de schoonheid van het gepolijste hout en de tatoeages weer zichtbaar te maken (Petridis 1995: 333-334).
Dit beeld heeft naast een kommetje in de linkerhand nog een soort van stamper (of kalebasje?) in de rechterhand.

Herkomst Lulua, Democratische Republiek Congo
Inheemse naam Lupingu lwa bwimpe
Datering voor/before 1959
Afmetingen 17 x 4,5 x 5cm (6 11/16 x 1 3/4 x 1 15/16in.)
Inventarisnummer 2829-13
http://collectie.tropenmuseum.nl/Default.aspx











Houten vruchtbaarheidsbeeld in de vorm van een vrouw met kom

Het beeld heeft deel uitgemaakt van een vruchtbaarheidscultus, waarvan de naam verschilt per ondergroep, die tot doel had de vrouwelijke vruchtbaarheid te beschermen en te waken over pasgeborenen en kleine kinderen. Beelden met in hun hand een kommetje of schaaltje, dat gevuld werd met kaolien of porseleinaarde, worden 'lupingu lwa bwimpe' of 'bulenga' genoemd. De beelden waren in bezit van vrouwen die mooie en gezonde kinderen hadden gekregen. Vooral kinderen met een bleke, 'rode' huid waren en zijn bij de Lulua erg geliefd. De littekentatoeages werden in eerste instantie gezien als schoonheidstekens en verwezen naar het concept 'bulenga', door mensenhanden geschapen schoonheid. Een gezonde volmaakte huid stond symbool voor buitengewone morele en fysieke kwaliteiten. Kinderen die aan dit ideaal beantwoordden werden geacht het best gewapend te zijn tegen hekserij en aanvallen van beheksers ook liepen zij weinig kans zelf van hekserij beschuldigd te worden. Lichamelijke gebreken en huidaandoeningen werden als indicaties van hekserij gezien. Men besteedde dan ook veel aandacht aan de dagelijkse verzorging van de huid en het gezicht door ze in te smeren met een mengsel van olie, rode aarde en kaolien. Ze verkregen zo een 'gepolijst oppervlak' wat goed terug te zien is op de beelden. De huid van een vrouw werd echter pas als volmaakt beschouwd wanneer ze van allerlei tatoeagepatronen was voorzien. De beelden waren houders van de geesten van overleden voorouders die als taak hadden te waken over het welzijn van de pasgeboren kinderen, hun afstammelingen. De beelden zijn echter geen voorouderbeelden in de strikte zin van het woord, ze zijn geen afbeeldingen van voorouders, stellen ze niet voor. De esthetische kwaliteiten van de beelden vormde een garantie tegen beheksing en was er op gericht de schoonheid en lichamelijke volmaaktheid van de opgroeiende kinderen te bevorderen. Zowel de sculpturen als de kinderen werden regelmatig ingewreven met rood houtpoeder, rode aarde, regenwater en olie. Bij de beelden werd dit mengsel na elke rituele handeling weer verwijderd om de schoonheid van het gepolijste hout en de tatoeages weer zichtbaar te maken (Petridis 1995: 333-334).

Herkomst Lulua, Democratische Republiek Congo
Inheemse naam Lupingu lwa bwimpe
Datering voor/before 1959
Afmetingen circa 17,5 cm (6 7/8in.)
Inventarisnummer 2829-7
http://collectie.tropenmuseum.nl/Default.aspx








 


Het beeld heeft deel uitgemaakt van de vruchtbaarheidscultus bwanga bwa cibola die tot voor kort nog actief was. In het algemeen verwijzen de beelden naar het moederschap en de vrouwelijke vruchtbaarheid in de gedaante van een moeder met kind of een zwangere vrouw (zoals bij dit exemplaar). Er werden ook mannelijke figuren en veel minder natuurgetrouwe beelden in een andere stijl gebruikt. In oorsprong waren de beelden voorzien van een magische substantie in de vorm van geladen voorwerpen als horens, kalebassen of slakkenhuizen. Als een vrouw kort na de geboorte of via een miskraam al meerdere kinderen had verloren vermoedde men dat er hekserij in het spel was en raadpleegde vervolgens een waarzegger (mubuki). Deze gaf de vrouw dan meestal de opdracht zich in te laten wijden in de bwanga bwa cibola. Wanneer de vrouw opnieuw zwanger was trad vanaf de achtste maand de cultus effectief in werking en moest ze zich tot na de geboorte aan talrijke taboes en voorschriften (bishila) houden. Zo mocht ze geen seksuele contacten meer hebben en diende ze enkel nog maar maniokpap te eten en stilstaand water van een plas of een vijver te drinken. Ze was tevens verplicht in tijdelijke afzondering in een kleine omheinde woning aan de rand van het dorp te verblijven. Na afloop van deze periode werd ze ritueel gewassen (met regenwater) en meestal ontving ze dan van de mubuki één of meer gesneden houten beelden. De cultus en haar beelden hadden als doel het ongeboren leven te beschermen en te zorgen voor de reïncarnatie van een overleden voorouder in het pasgeboren kind. De beelden stellen echter niet de voorouders voor, dus ondanks de betrokkenheid van de voorouders is de bwanga bwa cibola géén vooroudercultus. De staande figuren werden in een mand naast het bed van de vrouw bewaard, de figuren die in een punt eindigden werden in het schort of aan de gordel vastgemaakt. De grote beelden werden in het bevruchtende licht van elke nieuwe maan tentoongesteld. De beelden werden dagelijks ingewreven met een mengsel van olie, rode aarde en kaolien, dat naderhand weer verwijderd werd, maar ze verkregen zo wel een glanzend patina. De pasgeborene zou later dezelfde behandeling ondergaan. De vrouw die aan de cultus onderworpen was liet vaak de helft van haar hoofdhaar wegscheren en kleedde zich in een eenvoudig schaamschort om haar speciale status aan te geven. Na circa twee maanden zwangerschap kreeg ze, om een miskraam te voorkomen, middels een speciale rite een amulet (mubangu) omgehangen. De mubangu bestond uit een leren gordel, versierd met kralen, kauri's en soms ivoren bollen, die met ingrediënten geladen werd of voorzien van kleine gevulde kalebassen. Op de meeste beelden zijn zowel de schaamschort als de mubangu, die de vrouw tot aan de geboorte moest dragen, weergegeven. De beelden tonen nog de oude haarmode, zoals het kapsel met drie lobben (imitatie van een pruik) en de spitse uitstulping op de kruin die disungu heet. Niet alleen de kapsel zijn verouderd, ook de littekentatoeages die op de figuren zijn aangebracht waren bijna een eeuw geleden al aan het verdwijnen. Ze werden in eerste instantie gezien als schoonheidstekens en verwezen naar het concept 'bulenga', door mensenhanden geschapen schoonheid. Een gezonde volmaakte huid stond symbool voor buitengewone morele en fysieke kwaliteiten. Kinderen die aan dit ideaal beantwoordden werden geacht het best gewapend te zijn tegen hekserij en aanvallen van beheksers. De vorm van de littekentatoeages heeft een diepere betekenis. Zo verwijzen concentrische cirkels en spiralen (mikono of byombo) naar de grote hemellichamen en symboliseren leven en hoop. 'Een dubbele golvende lijn (mwoyo wa munda), onder meer voorgesteld op het voorhoofd, staat voor het leven in het menselijk lichaam, met name het hart dat in de borstkast klopt en het kind dat in de baarmoeder groeit….. Een door concentrische tatoeages omgeven navel - de meeste beelden tonen een navelbreuk - is een metafoor voor de nauwe band met de voorouders en de continuïteit van de generaties. Uitpuilende ogen met benadrukte pupillen wijzen op de bijzondere gave om het gevaar van beheksers en andere boosdoeners tijdig op te sporen. Ook de slapen, plaats waarlangs de intelligentie en het gezond verstand in de mens dringen, zijn vaak versierd met een tatoeagepatroon. De door het kapsel benadrukte kleine en grote fontanel tenslotte verwijzen naar een sleutelconcept van het Lulua esoterisme: het heroveren van het vermogen van de helderziendheid en de dubbele perceptie, om zowel het verleden als de toekomst en de zichtbare als de onzichtbare wereld te kennen' (Petridis 1995: 332 -333).

Herkomst Lulua, Democratische Republiek Congo
Datering voor/before 1959
Afmetingen circa 26 cm (10 1/4in.)
Inventarisnummer 2829-1
http://collectie.tropenmuseum.nl/Default.aspx


 

 

 

 


Het beeld heeft deel uitgemaakt van de vruchtbaarheidscultus 'bwanga bwa cibola' die tot voor kort nog actief was. In het algemeen verwijzen de beelden naar het moederschap en de vrouwelijke vruchtbaarheid in de gedaante van een moeder met kind of een zwangere vrouw (zoals bij dit exemplaar). Er werden ook mannelijke figuren en veel minder natuurgetrouwe beelden in een andere stijl gebruikt. In oorsprong waren de beelden voorzien van een magische substantie in de vorm van geladen voorwerpen als horens, kalebassen of slakkenhuizen. Als een vrouw kort na de geboorte of via een miskraam al meerdere kinderen had verloren vermoedde men dat er hekserij in het spel was en raadpleegde vervolgens een waarzegger (mubuki). Deze gaf de vrouw dan meestal de opdracht zich in te laten wijden in de bwanga bwa cibola. Wanneer de vrouw opnieuw zwanger was trad vanaf de achtste maand de cultus effectief in werking en moest ze zich tot na de geboorte aan talrijke taboes en voorschriften (bishila) houden. Zo mocht ze geen seksuele contacten meer hebben en diende ze enkel nog maar maniokpap te eten en stilstaand water van een plas of een vijver te drinken. Ze was tevens verplicht in tijdelijke afzondering in een kleine omheinde woning aan de rand van het dorp te verblijven. Na afloop van deze periode werd ze ritueel gewassen (met regenwater) en meestal ontving ze dan van de mubuki één of meer gesneden houten beelden. De cultus en haar beelden hadden als doel het ongeboren leven te beschermen en te zorgen voor de reïncarnatie van een overleden voorouder in het pasgeboren kind. De beelden stellen echter niet de voorouders voor, dus ondanks de betrokkenheid van de voorouders is de bwanga bwa cibola géén vooroudercultus. De staande figuren werden in een mand naast het bed van de vrouw bewaard, de figuren die in een punt eindigden werden in het schort of aan de gordel vastgemaakt. De grote beelden werden in het bevruchtende licht van elke nieuwe maan tentoongesteld. De beelden werden dagelijks ingewreven met een mengsel van olie, rode aarde en kaolien, dat naderhand weer verwijderd werd, maar ze verkregen zo wel een glanzend patina. De pasgeborene zou later dezelfde behandeling ondergaan. De vrouw die aan de cultus onderworpen was liet vaak de helft van haar hoofdhaar wegscheren en kleedde zich in een eenvoudig schaamschort om haar speciale status aan te geven. Na circa twee maanden zwangerschap kreeg ze, om een miskraam te voorkomen, middels een speciale rite een amulet (mubangu) omgehangen. De mubangu bestond uit een leren gordel, versierd met kralen, kauri's en soms ivoren bollen, die met ingrediënten geladen werd of voorzien van kleine gevulde kalebassen. Op de meeste beelden zijn zowel de schaamschort als de mubangu, die de vrouw tot aan de geboorte moest dragen, weergegeven. De beelden tonen nog de oude haarmode, zoals het kapsel met drie lobben (imitatie van een pruik) en de spitse uitstulping op de kruin die disungu heet. Niet alleen de kapsel zijn verouderd, ook de littekentatoeages die op de figuren zijn aangebracht waren bijna een eeuw geleden al aan het verdwijnen. Ze werden in eerste instantie gezien als schoonheidstekens en verwezen naar het concept 'bulenga', door mensenhanden geschapen schoonheid. Een gezonde volmaakte huid stond symbool voor buitengewone morele en fysieke kwaliteiten. Kinderen die aan dit ideaal beantwoordden werden geacht het best gewapend te zijn tegen hekserij en aanvallen van beheksers. De vorm van de littekentatoeages heeft een diepere betekenis. Zo verwijzen concentrische cirkels en spiralen (mikono of byombo) naar de grote hemellichamen en symboliseren leven en hoop. 'Een dubbele golvende lijn (mwoyo wa munda), onder meer voorgesteld op het voorhoofd, staat voor het leven in het menselijk lichaam, met name het hart dat in de borstkast klopt en het kind dat in de baarmoeder groeit….. Een door concentrische tatoeages omgeven navel - de meeste beelden tonen een navelbreuk - is een metafoor voor de nauwe band met de voorouders en de continuïteit van de generaties. Uitpuilende ogen met benadrukte pupillen wijzen op de bijzondere gave om het gevaar van beheksers en andere boosdoeners tijdig op te sporen. Ook de slapen, plaats waarlangs de intelligentie en het gezond verstand in de mens dringen, zijn vaak versierd met een tatoeagepatroon. De door het kapsel benadrukte kleine en grote fontanel tenslotte verwijzen naar een sleutelconcept van het Lulua esoterisme: het heroveren van het vermogen van de helderziendheid en de dubbele perceptie, om zowel het verleden als de toekomst en de zichtbare als de onzichtbare wereld te kennen' (Petridis 1995: 332 -333).

Herkomst Lulua, Democratische Republiek Congo
Inheemse naam Bulenga
Datering voor/before 1959
Afmetingen circa 19 cm (7 1/2in.) Inventarisnummer 2829-2
http://collectie.tropenmuseum.nl/Default.aspx








 


Houten vruchtbaarheidsbeeld in de vorm van een vrouw met kom

Lupingu lwa bwimpe

Het beeld heeft deel uitgemaakt van een vruchtbaarheidscultus, waarvan de naam verschilt per ondergroep, die tot doel had de vrouwelijke vruchtbaarheid te beschermen en te waken over pasgeborenen en kleine kinderen. Beelden met in hun hand een kommetje of schaaltje, dat gevuld werd met kaolien of porseleinaarde, worden 'lupingu lwa bwimpe' of 'bulenga' genoemd. De beelden waren in bezit van vrouwen die mooie en gezonde kinderen hadden gekregen. Vooral kinderen met een bleke, 'rode' huid waren en zijn bij de Lulua erg geliefd. De littekentatoeages werden in eerste instantie gezien als schoonheidstekens en verwezen naar het concept 'bulenga', door mensenhanden geschapen schoonheid. Een gezonde volmaakte huid stond symbool voor buitengewone morele en fysieke kwaliteiten. Kinderen die aan dit ideaal beantwoordden werden geacht het best gewapend te zijn tegen hekserij en aanvallen van beheksers ook liepen zij weinig kans zelf van hekserij beschuldigd te worden. Lichamelijke gebreken en huidaandoeningen werden als indicaties van hekserij gezien. Men besteedde dan ook veel aandacht aan de dagelijkse verzorging van de huid en het gezicht door ze in te smeren met een mengsel van olie, rode aarde en kaolien. Ze verkregen zo een 'gepolijst oppervlak' wat goed terug te zien is op de beelden. De huid van een vrouw werd echter pas als volmaakt beschouwd wanneer ze van allerlei tatoeagepatronen was voorzien. De beelden waren houders van de geesten van overleden voorouders die als taak hadden te waken over het welzijn van de pasgeboren kinderen, hun afstammelingen. De beelden zijn echter geen voorouderbeelden in de strikte zin van het woord, ze zijn geen afbeeldingen van voorouders, stellen ze niet voor. De esthetische kwaliteiten van de beelden vormde een garantie tegen beheksing en was er op gericht de schoonheid en lichamelijke volmaaktheid van de opgroeiende kinderen te bevorderen. Zowel de sculpturen als de kinderen werden regelmatig ingewreven met rood houtpoeder, rode aarde, regenwater en olie. Bij de beelden werd dit mengsel na elke rituele handeling weer verwijderd om de schoonheid van het gepolijste hout en de tatoeages weer zichtbaar te maken (Petridis 1995: 333-334).

Herkomst Lulua, Democratische Republiek Congo
Inheemse naam Lupingu lwa bwimpe
Datering voor/before 1959
Afmetingen circa 24,5cm (9 5/8in.)
Inventarisnummer 2829-10








 


Houten vruchtbaarheidsbeeld in de vorm van een vrouw met kom

Lupingu lwa bwimpe

Het beeld heeft deel uitgemaakt van een vruchtbaarheidscultus, waarvan de naam verschilt per ondergroep, die tot doel had de vrouwelijke vruchtbaarheid te beschermen en te waken over pasgeborenen en kleine kinderen. Beelden met in hun hand een kommetje of schaaltje, dat gevuld werd met kaolien of porseleinaarde, worden 'lupingu lwa bwimpe' of 'bulenga' genoemd. De beelden waren in bezit van vrouwen die mooie en gezonde kinderen hadden gekregen. Vooral kinderen met een bleke, 'rode' huid waren en zijn bij de Lulua erg geliefd. De littekentatoeages werden in eerste instantie gezien als schoonheidstekens en verwezen naar het concept 'bulenga', door mensenhanden geschapen schoonheid. Een gezonde volmaakte huid stond symbool voor buitengewone morele en fysieke kwaliteiten. Kinderen die aan dit ideaal beantwoordden werden geacht het best gewapend te zijn tegen hekserij en aanvallen van beheksers ook liepen zij weinig kans zelf van hekserij beschuldigd te worden. Lichamelijke gebreken en huidaandoeningen werden als indicaties van hekserij gezien. Men besteedde dan ook veel aandacht aan de dagelijkse verzorging van de huid en het gezicht door ze in te smeren met een mengsel van olie, rode aarde en kaolien. Ze verkregen zo een 'gepolijst oppervlak' wat goed terug te zien is op de beelden. De huid van een vrouw werd echter pas als volmaakt beschouwd wanneer ze van allerlei tatoeagepatronen was voorzien. De beelden waren houders van de geesten van overleden voorouders die als taak hadden te waken over het welzijn van de pasgeboren kinderen, hun afstammelingen. De beelden zijn echter geen voorouderbeelden in de strikte zin van het woord, ze zijn geen afbeeldingen van voorouders, stellen ze niet voor. De esthetische kwaliteiten van de beelden vormde een garantie tegen beheksing en was er op gericht de schoonheid en lichamelijke volmaaktheid van de opgroeiende kinderen te bevorderen. Zowel de sculpturen als de kinderen werden regelmatig ingewreven met rood houtpoeder, rode aarde, regenwater en olie. Bij de beelden werd dit mengsel na elke rituele handeling weer verwijderd om de schoonheid van het gepolijste hout en de tatoeages weer zichtbaar te maken (Petridis 1995: 333-334).
Dit beeld heeft naast een kommetje in de linkerhand nog een soort van stamper (of kalebasje?) in de rechterhand.

Herkomst Lulua, Democratische Republiek Congo
Inheemse naam Lupingu lwa bwimpe
Datering voor/before 1959
Afmetingen circa 16cm (6 5/16in.)
Inventarisnummer 2829-6
http://collectie.tropenmuseum.nl/Default.aspx








 


Houten vruchtbaarheidsbeeld in de vorm van een vrouw met kom

Lupingu lwa bwimpe

Het beeld heeft deel uitgemaakt van een vruchtbaarheidscultus, waarvan de naam verschilt per ondergroep, die tot doel had de vrouwelijke vruchtbaarheid te beschermen en te waken over pasgeborenen en kleine kinderen. Beelden met in hun hand een kommetje of schaaltje, dat gevuld werd met kaolien of porseleinaarde, worden 'lupingu lwa bwimpe' of 'bulenga' genoemd. De beelden waren in bezit van vrouwen die mooie en gezonde kinderen hadden gekregen. Vooral kinderen met een bleke, 'rode' huid waren en zijn bij de Lulua erg geliefd. De littekentatoeages werden in eerste instantie gezien als schoonheidstekens en verwezen naar het concept 'bulenga', door mensenhanden geschapen schoonheid. Een gezonde volmaakte huid stond symbool voor buitengewone morele en fysieke kwaliteiten. Kinderen die aan dit ideaal beantwoordden werden geacht het best gewapend te zijn tegen hekserij en aanvallen van beheksers ook liepen zij weinig kans zelf van hekserij beschuldigd te worden. Lichamelijke gebreken en huidaandoeningen werden als indicaties van hekserij gezien. Men besteedde dan ook veel aandacht aan de dagelijkse verzorging van de huid en het gezicht door ze in te smeren met een mengsel van olie, rode aarde en kaolien. Ze verkregen zo een 'gepolijst oppervlak' wat goed terug te zien is op de beelden. De huid van een vrouw werd echter pas als volmaakt beschouwd wanneer ze van allerlei tatoeagepatronen was voorzien. De beelden waren houders van de geesten van overleden voorouders die als taak hadden te waken over het welzijn van de pasgeboren kinderen, hun afstammelingen. De beelden zijn echter geen voorouderbeelden in de strikte zin van het woord, ze zijn geen afbeeldingen van voorouders, stellen ze niet voor. De esthetische kwaliteiten van de beelden vormde een garantie tegen beheksing en was er op gericht de schoonheid en lichamelijke volmaaktheid van de opgroeiende kinderen te bevorderen. Zowel de sculpturen als de kinderen werden regelmatig ingewreven met rood houtpoeder, rode aarde, regenwater en olie. Bij de beelden werd dit mengsel na elke rituele handeling weer verwijderd om de schoonheid van het gepolijste hout en de tatoeages weer zichtbaar te maken (Petridis 1995: 333-334).

Herkomst Lulua, Democratische Republiek Congo
Inheemse naam Lupingu lwa bwimpe
Datering voor/before 1959
Afmetingen circa 18 cm (7 1/16in.)
Inventarisnummer 2829-12
http://collectie.tropenmuseum.nl/Default.aspx








 

Yaka=Bayaka=(Yakka) people from Congo

Ball fetish, power figure (nkisi), protective figure (pumbu/pumba/phuungu)

stands up by itself

bought from a collection on an auction of African art in Antwerp, Belgium

not available anymore

Yaka means the strong ones; "ba" means people; thus Bayaka means the strong people. The men traditionally practiced hunting, while the women cultivated manioc, yams, peas, pineapples and peanuts. The Yaka were/are a highly artistic people/tribe: they give an aesthetic touch to many everyday objects such as combs, pipes, musical instruments. This figure represents one of the Yaka tribe’s most widespread sculptural categories.
Its function is probably to protect people against evils. All nkisi figures are manipulated by a diviner to activate a force which can either inflict illness or protect one’s clan from illness or harm, depending upon the particular set of circumstances. The diviner has an important position in Yaka society because he owns and activates powerful objects.

Typical are

A good example has been published in the book
Jacques Kerchache, Jean-Louis Paudrat, Lucien Stephan,
L'art et les grandes civililitations: L'art africain.
Paris : Editions Mazenod, 1988, 620 pp., on p. 459.

"Protective fetish figures abound, in a variety of sizes and styles.
Most are Khosi, holding ingredients from nature to give them power and are hung with charms or amulets of horns, shells, twigs, feathers, herbs, fibers and fur. Several combine male and female in one figure creating the mythological primordial being from whom man and woman evolved.
Others, known as Phuungu, have torsos wrapped like a Christo sculpture with cloth until almost spherical, hiding their magic. All the fetishes seem quite spiritual, for they gained their power among the Yaka because the people believed in them."
"Fetishes were protective figures used by individuals, families, or whole communities to destroy or weaken evil spirits, prevent or cure illnesses, repel bad deeds, solemnize contracts or oath-taking, and decide arguments. A diviner or holy person would activate the statue, using magical substances. Fetishes gained power and were effective because people believed in them.
Yaka fetishes known as Biteki support sacred substances containing life force. These materials, together with the figure, assist the prayers and supplications of their owners for protection of harm, sickness or loss. Distinctive facial features of Yaka sculpture include the bisected eyes and upturned noses that are typical of their masks as well."
(source = http://www.hamillgallery.com/ cited 2005)

"À propos des Yaka et des Suku:
Les régions des peuples Yaka et Suku se situent à la frontière entre la République Démocratique du Congo (ex Zaïre) et l’Angola (voir la carte dans l’album photos).
Les Suku peu nombreux (80000 à 100000 individus) peuplent deux petites régions alors que la région Yaka (350000 à 400000 individus) s’étend sur les plateaux dominant les vallées fluviales très encaissées qui caractérisent toute cette partie située entre le fleuve Congo et la rivière Kwilu. Si les langues des Yaka et des Suku sont différentes, ils ont une culture très proche car les populations sont vraiment en contact les unes des autres. Ils possèdent les mêmes institutions, la même typologie d’objets et partagent le même environnement. Historiquement ces deux peuples sont liés depuis le XVII ème siècle avec le souvenir vivace d’appartenance à une même terre d’origine. Ils se sont en effet déplacés depuis le pays Lunda et ont migré vers le Nord afin de fuir une soumission aux Lunda. Leur société est très structurée avec, pour la famille, une segmentation en lignage dont le chef exerce une réelle autorité (jusqu’au droit de vie et de mort). Leur organisation politique est aussi pyramidale du village au chef de plusieurs villages, au chef de région jusqu’au chef suprême (le Kyambko chez les Yaka et le Menikongo chez les Suku) auquel on doit tribut. De par la proximité de ces peuples et de leur culture, il sera intéressant d’examiner des statuettes de divination et plus encore les masques liés aux sociétés d’initiation (semblables dans leurs pratiques): le Nkhanda chez les Yaka et le Mukanda chez les Suku."
"Les statuettes de divination Yaka et Suku:
Proches des Minkisi (chez les Kongo), les statuettes de divination Yaka appelées Khosi sont elles aussi des statuettes chargées. Des amalgames sont contenus soit dans des sachets suspendus au cou ou à la taille de la statuette; soit dans une cavité ventrale fermée. Le « devin » ou Ngoombu a, seul, le pouvoir de les activer. Les gardiens des Khosi créent ces statuettes dans un enclos, de manière recluse, à l’écart du village car ce type de statuettes et leurs pouvoirs alors en jeu sont puissants. Celles-ci exigent de plus un rituel précis. (Paroles, ablutions...) Elles sont susceptibles de déclencher la mort, la maladie, le douleur, la folie. Ce qui est frappant lorsqu’on les observe, c’est leur sérénité...contrairement à l’esthétique agressive des statuettes à charmes Kongo (les« fétiches à clous » dont nous aurons l’occasion de reparler tant ils ont frappé nos imaginations). Certaines font le geste de joindre les mains sous le menton, peut-être cela est-il lié à l’importance de la parole au cours de la création de la statuette?
Moins « puissantes » que les Khosi, les statuettes Phuungu, plus petites (10 à 20 cm), sont des objets accrochés au pilier de la maison et qui n’exigent pas de rituel particulier. Elles ont un rôle protecteur contre le sorcier ou le mal et sont généralement la propriété d’un chef de lignage...ce qui n'est pas anodin lorsqu'on sait son importance (pouvoir de vie ou de mort) au sein de la famille..."
(source = http://detoursdesmondes.typepad.com/ 2005)

 

About fetish figures:

A fetish is a statue or object with magical power, usually to protect the users from evil spirits or to attempt to control one's destiny. In traditional, tribal Africa, especially in Zaire, these beliefs are manifested in expressive and magical power figures; these acquired power through ritualistic carving and consecration, the addition of special substances and the recurring activation of its spirit by offering sacrifices and magic words. Some fetishes have the heads or stomachs hallowed out to hold special substances; some contain magic substances around the body or in the arms; some have mirrors to reflect back evil or to blind hostile spirits; some are Janus-figures for better vigilance and protection. Among the materials added to the wood figures are horns, shells, nails, feathers, mirrors, metal, twine, paint, cloth, raffia, fur, beads and herbs. The Bakongo/Kongo people created the famous nail fetishes. The Songye created mainly horned fetishes carved with much expressive force. Bateke fetishes are either covered with encrusted additions. The Yaka figures contain the magical substances in cloth around the body and/or in the arms.
 

 

 

 

 

 



 


Gabon=Gabun

Mahongwe=Hongwe people in northern Gabonabon

Memorial figure / reliquary, funerary statue, named ossyeba

    

Bought in a gallery of traditional African art in the center of Dakar, Senegal, in the year 2000.

NOT available

These objects are famous icons of African art. They are related to similar ones made by the neighboring people, the Bakota / Kota and the Fang. The object was placed on top of the box that contained the skull and bones, remains of an ancestor. Then it served as guardian. The reliquaries were kept outside homes and only the initiates of the lineage had access to this sacred place. The objects were used in the Bwete/Bwiti/Bwitti/Bwiiti/Bewiiti, the cult of the ancestors.
The geometric stylization makes these pieces valuable lasting works of art, even independent of usage, time period or region, like the admired objects from the Cyclades with a similar form.
The from looks like the head of an erect cobra.
The nose is reduced to a thin blade.
The mouth is covered with a square plate because "there is no message from the other world".
The figure recalls the traditional hairstyle of Mahongwe initiates.
This type of sculptures do not resemble particular ancestors/persons.
 

The WWW site of the National Museum of African Art in Washington, USA, http://www.nmafa.si.edu/pubaccess/index.htm in 2004, learns us the following:
"Several Bantu-speaking peoples, including the Hongwe and Kota peoples in Gabon and the Republic of the Congo (Brazzaville), preserved and revered the relics of important ancestral leaders in the belief that their extraordinary powers survived mortal death. The relics, customarily the skull and certain other bones, and powerful substances were kept in bark boxes or woven baskets. Sculpted wood figures overlaid with metal were positioned on or tied to the reliquary to serve as its guardian. The creation of reliquary guardian figures (bwiti) ceased around 1930 as a result of aggressive proselytizing by Christian missionaries, the imposition of a new social organization centered on the Western-style nuclear family, and indigenous movements aimed at destroying certain local religious practices. Consequently, many of these sculptures were destroyed by burning or concealed by burial. Extant examples are rare."

"Among the Kota-Mohongwe people, it was the custom to preserve and cherish the relics of deceased ancestors. Bones from the corpses of family leaders were specially preserved, as were those from people of exceptional character and achievement: Women who bore many children, respected judges, religious specialists, and others whose support and guidance after death would be of help to their descendants. The cult of these relics was called Bwiiti. The relics were bundled together, sometimes in a bark container, sometimes in a basket. Lashed to the relics, or their container, was a figure, a wooden form covered with brass wire or strips cut from imported vessels and with sheets of brass or copper. Each reliquary was believed to work for the good of the family that possessed it. Most of the time it was kept hidden in the family heads house or in a special small building. The intercession and aid of the ancestors was sought to aid fertility, hunting, and other important undertakings. The figure on top of the reliquary had its own name. It seems to have been conceived as a protective figure rather than a representation of the ancestor, and it was believed to prevent other mystical forces from interfering with the power of the ancestral relics. At those times when the welfare of the village was at stake (the death of a leader, epidemic, during preparations for the communal Net-Hunt), each family took out its Bwiti and participated in a communal rite.
The metal surface of the figure was polished before important ceremonies. Its reflectiveness was associated with ideas of life and prophecy and was thought to deflect evil. At the initiation of Youths, all the local descent groups gathered together, and all the Bewiiti were brought out. The head of each lineage, dressed in an elaborate costume, danced holding the Guardian figures and container in his hands."
(source = http://www.nsu.edu/resources/woods/gabon.htm in 2005)

Famous pieces belong to the collections of the Musée du Louvre and of the Musée Dapper in Paris, France.

This kind of sculptures have been described and published many times, for instance in

"Among the real multitude of more or less realistic ancestor statues, designed to perpetuate the memory of the founders of tribes through family or community worship, there is a separate category of objects which united human remains, skulls and/or bones and a statuette or carved head. This ensemble is known to western collectors as a "Reliquary". It expresses forcefully the persistence and authority of the dead, who thus remain doubly present - on a material level, first, since the bones are preserved, and also on a mythical level, in the figurine which is not a portrait but an abstract evocation of the ancestor. It is the bearer of signs which all those who have been initiated will understand."
Black Africa, Laure Meyer.

A virtual museum of art in Gabon is available free of charge through http://www.legabon.org/livre/

The piece shown has a greenish patina.








 


Ivory Coast / Cote d' Ivoire / Elfenbeinküste / Costa D'Avorio, in West Africa

Attye / Anye people

Statue, female figure

Wood

Bought on an auction of African art in Antwerp(en), Belgium.

Includes a custom made, black, iron stand.

Not in collection anymore

 

 

 

 

Baule people/tribe

The Baule/Baoule and their art are described for instance in a chapter in the book
Jacques Kerchache, Jean-Louis Paudrat, Lucien Stephan,
L'art et les grandes civilizations: L'art africain.
Paris : Editions Mazenod, 1988, 620 pp.

"The Baule people, known as one of the largest ethnic group in the country, have played a central role in twentieth-century Ivorian history. They waged the longest war of resistance to French colonization of any West African people, and maintained their traditional objects and beliefs longer than many groups in such constant contact with European administrators, traders, and missionaries. According to a legend, during the eighteenth century, the queen, Abla Poku, had to lead her people west to the shores of the Comoe, the land of Senufo. In order to cross the river, she sacrificed her own son. This sacrifice was the origin of the name Baule, for baouli means “the child has died.” Now about one million Baule occupy a part of the eastern Côte d'Ivoire between the Komoé and Bandama rivers that is both forest and savanna land. Baule society was characterized by extreme individualism, great tolerance, a deep aversion toward rigid political structures, and a lack of age classes, initiation, circumcision, priests, secret societies, or associations with hierarchical levels. Each village was independent from the others and made its own decisions under the presiding presence of a council of elders. Everyone participated in discussions, including slaves. It was an egalitarian society. The Baule compact villages are divided into wards, or quarters, and subdivided into family compounds of rectangular dwellings arranged around a courtyard; the compounds are usually aligned on either side of the main village street. The Baule are agriculturists; yams are the staple, supplemented by fish and game; coffee and cocoa are major cash crops. The importance of the yam is demonstrated in an annual harvest festival in which the first yam is symbolically offered to the ancestors, whose worship is a prominent aspect of Baule religion. The foundation of Baule social and political institutions is the matrilineal lineage; each lineage has ceremonial stools that embody ancestral spirits. Paternal descent is recognized, however, and certain spiritual and personal qualities are believed to be inherited through it. The Baule believe in an intangible and inaccessible creator god, Nyamien. Asie, the god of the earth, controls humans and animals. The spirits, or amuen, are endowed with supernatural powers. Religion is founded upon the idea of death and the immortality of the soul. Ancestors are the object of worship but are not depicted.
Baule art is sophisticated and stylistically diverse. Non inherited, the sculptor’s profession is the result of a personal choice. The Baule have types of sculpture that none of the other Akan peoples possess. Wooden sculptures and masks allow a closer contact with the supernatural world. Baule statues are usually standing on a base with legs slightly bent, with their hands resting on their abdomen in a gesture of peace, and their elongated necks supporting a face with typically raised scarification and bulging eyes. The coiffure is always very detailed and is usually divided into plaits. Baule figures answer to two types of devotion: one depicts the “spiritual” spouse who, in order to be appeased, requires the creation of a shrine in the personal hut of the individual. A man will own his spouse, the blolo bian, and a woman her spouse, the blolo bla, which they carry around everywhere they go. The Baule are also noted for their fine wooden sculpture, particularly for their ritual figures representing spirits; these are associated with the ancestor cult. The Baule have also created monkey figures gbekre that more or less resemble each other. Endowed with prognathic jaw and sharp teeth and a granular patina resulting from sacrifices, the monkey holds a bowl or a pestle in its paws. Sources differ on its role or function: some say it intervenes in the ritual of divination, others that it is a protection against sorcerers, or a protective divinity of agrarian rites, or a bush spirit. The figures and human masks are elegant -- well polished, with elaborate hairdressings and scarification."
(source = zyama.com)

"The Baulé people live in central Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire). A subgroup of the Akan people, they originally lived in Ghana. Three hundred years ago they migrated west into the Ivory Coast area when their queen, Aura Poku, contended for power with the king of the Asante people (also a subgroup of the Akan group). After the Asante king won, she led her people into the land they now occupy. The Baulé are an agrarian people who grow yam, manioc and maize. Their society is matrilineal, meaning descent is traced through one’s mother. Their social structure consists of small groups under the leadership of a king or queen."
(source = Utah Museum of Fine Arts, University of Utah, http://www.umfa.utah.edu/, 2005)

The Baule believe that each person has a mate of the opposite sex who lives in the "other world":
a man has an "other world woman" referred to as blolo bla, and a woman has an "other world man" referred to as blolo bian.
The existence of this other world partner is usually revealed through divination following a crisis of young adult life, such as the inability to conceive or a problem related to marriage. To resolve the problem, one commissions the carving of a figure as a stand-in for the other world mate and one typically spends one night a week alone to receive this person in dream visits. On the following day, offerings are placed in a small bowl at the feet of the figure.
The following WWW site offers information about blolo statues: http://www.uam.ucsb.edu/Pages/baule.html

Baule art has been described in
Susan Mullin Vogel, L'art Baoulé du visible et de l'invisible, Yale University Art Gallery, 1997.

"The Baule believe that before people are born into this world they have a spouse in the other world, and that these spouses occasionally become angry or jealous and disturb the lives of their living partners. When this happens, a diviner recommends that an altar be established where the spirit may receive offerings and be appeased. The carved figure of the "spirit spouse" should be beautiful in order to please the spirit and attract it to the shrine."
(source = African Art Aesthetics and Meaning.htm)

"The Baule Spirit Spouse is designed with great care and attention to several body parts. For instance, the coiffure, called the Baule Tre, consists of a tripartite arrangement; the mouth is usually projected forwards; the way that the hands rest on the stomach near the navel as a sign of grace and peace. Each of these gestures and features are taken into careful consideration and developed with grace. To intensify the effect which the sculpture has on the audience, the artist frequently enlarges the head, reduces the limbs, and lengthens the neck into folds which is a sign of beauty among young Baule girls.
The gesture that the Baule spirit spouse makes frequently (i.e., hands resting in the stomach near the navel) has great meaning to the Baule. The gesture is "made by certain spirits to show their respect or deference when they meet humans." The navel, or kotoa, is essentially the symbol of life for a protruding navel symbolizing a carnal link. Baule art speaks to the poetry of the human body with a rhythm as man being the "universal measure of space; as the theater of essential experiences." Baule art allows the sculpture to come to life with an added natural grace. Typically, the female is called "blolo bla", or wife, and can cause male impotence; whereas, the male "blolo bian", or husband, provokes sterility in women. The statuette, which is an idealized form of the human body, represents the marital bond shared between a man and a woman. Ultimately, the Baule Spirit Spouse symbolizes fertility and fecundity."
(source = http://cti.itc.virginia.edu)

"In the Baule figure sculpture tradition, other-world man and other-world woman figures are commissioned and carved as representatives of the opposite-sex mate that each adult is believed to have in the “other world,” the place from which the soul of the newborn comes and to which the soul of the dead departs. Such figures are carved on the recommendation of a diviner in order to resolve problems relating to marriage, childbearing, and social well-being. Consecrated and installed in its owner’s bedroom, often with one or two small ceramic bowls at its feet to receive offerings, the figure is often covered by a cloth that protects the body from dust and leaves only the head visible.
The other world is held to be directly comparable to the real world, such that the canons that govern the aesthetics of this form of figurative art are inspired directly by Baule notions of ideal human beauty. These comprise elaborate coiffures, well-defined facial features, a long neck (often with horizontal beauty lines), well-developed musculature for male figures, high breasts for female figures, well-developed calf muscles, and beauty scarification. The figure serves as an intermediary for the other-world mate and is an effective reminder of his or her presence in the real-world marriage, especially on the one night each week that the person sleeps alone to receive dream visits from the other-world mate."
(source = Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University. peabody.webmaster@yale.edu. Revised: 13 November 2000 http://www.peabody.yale.edu/store/ethnphic/sculture/Baule.html )









 

Spirit mate female figure, Blolo Bla

NOT available

stands up by itself; with an age crack in the back; excellent face

bought in an antiques shop in Antwerp, Belgium

This female "spirit spouse" figure expresses Baule ideas of physical beauty and moral virtue.
The erect bearing indicates a morally upright person.
The hands held obediently at the sides and the modest stance of the feet give the figure a respectful attitude that shows good character.
Physical perfection is shown in the healthy body, the strong neck able to bear heavy loads on the head and the muscular calves of the hard worker.
The pointed breasts and rounded buttocks signify maturity and sexual attractiveness, and thus the promise of children.









 

Spirit mate male figure, Blolo Bian

bought on an auction of African art in Antwerp, Belgium

not available









 

standing female figure in the style of the Agni/Akye/Ankye/Anyi/Atie/Atje/Atye/Attie/Attye/Ake or Ebrie people/tribe
from the lagoon area in the south-east of Ivory Coast / Cote d'Ivoire / Elfenbeinküste

available

bought on an auction in Antwerp, Belgium

This particular sculpture has some erosion on the base.

A number of small, segmented groups live along the Atlantic coast called the ‘Lagoon Peoples’ who share a common artistic legacy that is heavily influenced by Akan and Baule traditions.
They live south of their neighbours the Baule people.

Typical for their statues/figures are

Statues of similar form were put to varied uses.

Some photos of good examples are printed for instance in
Jacques Kerchache, Jean-Louis Paudrat, Lucien Stephan,
L'art et les grandes civililitations: L'art africain.
Paris : Editions Mazenod, 1988, 620 pp., p. 388.

"The eastern coast of the Côte d'Ivoire comprises the area of lagoons. The population here is divided into twelve different language groups with Akye being one of them. The Akye numbering 55,000 constitute a part of the Akan group of ethnicities. Before colonization each village was autonomous and, when threatened, they united to form a 'confederation'. Usually these people are not governed by chiefs, although a man's social position is determined by his age.
Early Akan economics revolved primarily around the trade of gold and enslaved peoples to Mande and Hausa traders within Africa and later to Europeans along the coast. This trade was dominated by the Asante who received firearms in return for their role as middlemen in the slave trade. These were used to increase their already dominant power. Local agriculture includes cocoa cultivation for export, while yams and taro serve as the main staples. Along the coast, fishing is very important. The depleted forests provide little opportunity for hunting. Extensive markets are run primarily by women who maintain considerable economic power, while men engage in fishing, hunting and clearing land. Both sexes participate in agricultural endeavors.
Royal membership among Akan is determined through connection to the land. Anyone who traces descendence from a founding member of a village or town may be considered royal. Each family is responsible for maintaining political and social order within its confines. In the past, there was a hierarchy of leadership that extended beyond the family, first to the village headman, then to a territorial chief, then to the paramount chief of each division within the Asante confederacy. The highest level of power is reserved for the Asanthene, who inherited his position along matrilineal lines. The Asantahene still plays an important role in Ghana today, symbolically linking the past with current Ghanaian politics.
Akan believe in a supreme god who takes on various names depending upon the particular region of worship. Akan mythology claims that at one time the god freely interacted with man, but that after being continually struck by the pestle of an old woman pounding fufu, he moved far up into the sky. There are no priests that serve him directly, and people believe that they may make direct contact with him. There are also numerous gods (abosom), who receive their power from the supreme god and are most often connected to the natural world. These include ocean and river spirits and various local deities. Priests serve individual spirits and act as mediators between the gods and mankind. Nearly everyone participates in daily prayer, which includes the pouring of libations as an offering to both the ancestors who are buried in the land and to the spirits who are everywhere. The earth is seen as a female deity and is directly connected to fertility and fecundity.
Woodcarving includes human statues, stools, which are recognized as "seats" of power, wooden dolls (akua’ba) that are associated with fertility, and also ivory and brass objects. Lost-wax casting processes were highly developed among the Akan – both gold and brass were caste. There are also extensive traditions of pottery and weaving throughout Akan territory. Kente cloth, woven on behalf of royalty, has come to symbolize African power throughout the world.
Standing and seated statues with bulbous arms and legs produced by the Akye show strong Baule influence, but they are very marked by their distinctive style. Often the hairdo is geometric. What is unusual is that the relief scarification marks are achieved by insertion of small wooden plugs into the carving. Representing the forces of female fecundity, these statues were used in rituals to make these forces work."
(source = http://www.zyama.com, cited 2005)

"The Attie are one of the Lagoons people and are southern neighbors of the Baule. Attie figures are, like those of the Baule, among the most elegant and designed pieces in Africa. Many show careful execution of face, coiffure and scarification details, with refined forms but no loss of expressiveness and power. The quiet, dignified figures embody spirits from the other world. They functioned as the home of a spirit to whom sacrifices were made and had to be placated with care. Figures were the abode of spirits associated with diviners. In ritual performances the spirit would come out to possess the diviner, causing a trance. The display of the figures would enhance and support the ensuing dance.
The distinctive style of the Attie includes more bulbous limbs, with a ryhthm of bulges and constrictions. The heads and eyes are large and scarification is often imitated by small wood pegs."
(source = www.hamillgallery.com, cited 2005))









 


Ghana

Asante / Asanti / Ashanti people

Doll / puppet named Akwaba / Akuaba in light wood


Bought in 2013 from UK.

Shows signs of age and use.
Carved from a light wood.
Wear to the face, breasts and navel common to these figures; the mouth on this one seems particularly worn down.
Abstract carving on neckline and rear of head.
Elegant curve forward of the neck whilst the head tilts back in perfect balance.
The front of the figure has more of smoother polished wear as it rubbed against the mother who carried it; the rear drier and duller with nice dry erosion to the crown of the head, a good sign of age.
Decorated with two strands of red old beads.
Height is 27.5 cm ( 10 3/4" ); mounted on the black base 30 cm ( 12" ).


 








 

Doll / puppet named Akwaba / Akuaba

Bought in 2010 from a collector in France, who had bought the piece from the son of a colonial.

Not available






 

Brookhaven College Center For the Arts Forum Gallery:
Of Power and Spirit: African Art From a Dallas Collection
January 6 - 29, 1997 Curator's Essay David Newman, Gallery Director
http://home.earthlink.net/~davidrnewman/africart.htm :
The Ashante Fertility Figure or akuaba figure in carved wood is worn against the back of an expectant mother to foster the beauty of the child. The occasional absence of feet in the akuaba figure serves as a sign of the dependency of the child on the mother; this is particularly evident when the figure is worn on the back. The outstretched arms of the figure both stabilize the figure against the expectant mother's back and suggest the openness of the infant to embrace, and by extension the infant's vulnerability and dependency. The ruler of the town of Agogo in northern Ashanti said in a 19 May 1969 interview:

Some Ashanti chiefs own akuaba. The main reason they do is to show them to pregnant royals [royal women of the court] so that they will bring forth a child with the same head. These pregnant women keep on gazing, until they give birth to a child with a head like the disk of the akuaba.23

 

 

 

 

 

Similar objects:


It is known that women used to carry them on their back before and during pregnancy and used to treat them like real children. They gain their magical power from the deity via the diviner´s blessing.
After childbirth, they might be dedicated to the deity, placed on an altar in the shrine, or given as a toy to a girl.
http://www.tribal-art-auktion.de/en/catalogue158/d100_1/








http://pics.tribal-art-auktion.de/5951-003_1365x2048.jpg

196 Fertility doll "akua ba" Ghana, Ashanti

wood, shiny brown patina, neck, arms and hips adorned with strings of miniature glass beads, min. dam., slight traces of abrasion

H: 31 cm H: 12.2 inch

Provenance Kegel-Konietzko, Hamburg, Germany (1976) Gisela & Hartwig Dehmel, Lüchow, Germany

Sold for: 650 €










197 Fertility doll "akua ba"

Ghana, Ashanti
wood, greyish white patina, remains of camwood powder in some areas, characteristic form, slightly dam., minor missing parts (mouth), traces of insect caused damage (lower part of the body), abrasion (nose), base;
the legend goes that a childless woman, called "akua", asked a sorcerer for help. He recommended her to order the carving of a wooden child. "Akua" followed his advice and always carried the doll around with her. It was called "akua ba" which means no more than "Akuas child". Finally she gave birth to a beautiful daughter" (according to I. N. Bell, 1989).

H: 33,5 cm H: 13.2 inch

Provenance Charles Wentinck, Saumane, France

Published in Wentinck, Charles, Modern and Primitive Art, Oxford 1974, ill. 14 a

Literature Bofinger, Brigitte & Wolfgang, Puppen aus Afrika, Stuttgart 2006, p. 36

Sold for: 1800 €









http://www.dorotheum.com/en/auction-detail/auction-9938-tribal-art/lot-1474429-ashanti-ghana-an-akuaba-fertility-and-conception-doll.html?no_cache=1&cHash=3bf44910ecd9e1c6ed29ef77a68b1fbc

Lot No. 26 Ashanti, Ghana: An 'Akuaba' fertility and conception doll.
Among the Ashanti, the largest sub-group of the Akan group, women who desire to have children, carry such figures tucked in their clothing. The Ashanti 'Akuaba' are traditionally depicted with a large, round, flat head referring to its original concept as a lunar fertility goddess.
Similar fertility dolls are used by the women of the neighbouring Fante, though with rectangular, board-shaped heads.
The above Ashanti 'Akuaba' is made of wood, stained black, and decorated with six strings of small, multi-coloured glass beads.
With used patina. 1st Half 20th Cent. H: 33,2 cm. (ME)

Prov.: Galerie Kanaga, Paris; Viennese private collection.

Specialist: Prof. Erwin Melchardt
realized price EUR 1.625,-
estimate EUR 2.000,- to 3.000,-

Tribal Art Auction Date: 28.03.2013 - 14:00 Location: Palais Dorotheum








 


14/04/13

Goxe-Belaïsch EMail : contact@enghien-svv.com Tél. : 01 34 12 68 16

Estimation : 700 - 800 €

Résultat : 250 € Lot n°105

ASHANTI Ghana Poupée dite de fertilité appelée Akua-ba, destinée aux jeunes filles qui sont sensées les porter sur le dos et qui étaient en cours de maternité, ou, parfois, en recherche d'un mari. Cette jolie petite pièce, très patinée par l'usage, a beaucoup de charme. Le traits du visage sont traités de façon plutôt géométrique alors que sur la face arrière quelques lignes et traits y sont gravés. Le cou est joliment cannelé et la tête ronde montre quelques trous sur les bords qui ont du accueillir des colliers de perles par le passé. Bois. Provenance: Collection privée Française (Paris). Dimensions: 24 x 18 cm.









14/04/13

Goxe-Belaïsch EMail : contact@enghien-svv.com Tél. : 01 34 12 68 16

Estimation : 1 000 - 1 200 €

Résultat : 800 € Lot n°31

ASHANTI Ghana Poupée dite de fertilité appelée Akua-ba, destinée à une jeune fille qui l'a portée sur le dos, enfouie sous les vêtements, et qui était soit en recherche d'un mari soit en attente d'un projet-bébé qu'elle espère ou encore en cours de maternité. Cette jolie pièce qui a un charme tout particulier a une très belle patine d'usage blonde, ce qui est assez rare, et elle est ancienne. Elle porte de petits colliers de fines perles multicolores au cou qui est cannelé, ainsi que sur sa belle coiffe bien arrondie et aux pieds (socle). Belles gravures au revers.
 Provenance: Collection privée (Norvège).
Litt.: African Dolls. Esther A. Dagan.1990. Page 70/75.
Dimensions: 38 x 14 cm









Fertility doll Akua ba, Ashanti, Ghana.

It is one of the more familiar stories in African cultural history. In what is now central Ghana, at some time in the distant past, a young Asante woman named Akua (Wednesday born) was having trouble conceiving a child (ba). To solve the problem she consulted a local priest, who divined that Akua should commission a woodcarving of a little child. The priest instructed her to treat the carving as if it were a living infant. She was to carry it as all young children are carried, on her back, tucked into her wrapper with just the head appearing above the cloth. She was told to feed the figure, bathe it, sleep with it, and give it gifts.

These Akua'ba are used in order to get pregnant and give birth to a healthy and beautiful child. Because the Akan are matrilineal (they trace family descent through the female line, not the male), it is imperative for a woman to have at least one daughter. This is why these dolls are always female images.

This Ashanti Akua ba has a typical abstract form, circular leg zone, supporting an armless cylindrical torso, a columnar neck and a flat disk shaped head on top with a narrow face, small mouth and nose beneath incised small coffee-bean eyes, the back of the head carved with incised geometrical ornaments.

Wood, black paint, paint rubbed off, glossy patina, traces of wear and use. On base.

H: 20,5 cm - 8.1 inch.

Provenance: Purchased by the previous owner in 1988 from the Afrika museum, Berg en Dal, Netherlands.

€ 575,-
http://www.tribalartfinder.com/product.php?productid=393












Fertility doll Akua ba, Ashanti, Ghana.

It is one of the more familiar stories in African cultural history. In what is now central Ghana, at some time in the distant past, a young Asante woman named Akua (Wednesday born) was having trouble conceiving a child (ba). To solve the problem she consulted a local priest, who divined that Akua should commission a woodcarving of a little child. The priest instructed her to treat the carving as if it were a living infant. She was to carry it as all young children are carried, on her back, tucked into her wrapper with just the head appearing above the cloth. She was told to feed the figure, bathe it, sleep with it, and give it gifts.

These Akua'ba are used in order to get pregnant and give birth to a healthy and beautiful child. Because the Akan are matrilineal (they trace family descent through the female line, not the male), it is imperative for a woman to have at least one daughter. This is why these dolls are always female images.

This Ashanti Akua ba has a typical abstract form, circular leg zone, supporting an armless cylindrical torso, a columnar neck and a flat disk shaped head on top with a narrow face, small mouth and nose beneath incised small coffee-bean eyes, the back of the head carved with incised geometrical ornaments. A strings of glass beads around hips.

Wood, black paint, paint rubbed off, glossy patina, traces of wear and use. On base.

H: 22 cm - 8.7 inch.

Provenance: Purchased at the Verzamelaarsjaarbeurs Utrecht 2009, Netherlands.

€ 475,-
http://www.tribalartfinder.com/product.php?productid=430


 


 






 

 

 

Asante / Akan / Fante / Fanti / Agni (or Ewe) people/tribe

Doll / puppet

     

bought on an auction of tribal art in Antwerpen, ex-collection of African art of a professor from Leuven University, Belgium

NOT available

This particular figure wears very fine beads, even in several places.
The wood has an attractive surface.
It is about 18 cm high.

The photos have been used on a poster to announce an event for Africa in 2010 in Antwerpen.

A photo of this figure is used as book cover:
Myths and Legends of the Bantu by Alice Werner
ISBN: 0557163358
The rich traditions of the Bantu. Most of the books below also have material on the Bantu of West Africa. "Myths and Legends of the Bantu is a book by Alice Werner published in 1933. It contains legends and myths from the Bantu culture concerning the gods, the origin of mankind, the afterlife, the heroes and demigods, various creatures, real and mythical, as well as some of the great Bantu epics." Edited by Brian K. Buckner







 

The Fante / Fanti and Agni are members of the larger ethnic, culture and language group known as the Akan that includes the Asante / Asanti / Ashanti among others.

Carved wooden figures are found among all of the Akan serving a number of different uses, such as fertility rituals.

Typical for the art from the Akan people are the following:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fante learns us the following:
The Mfantsefo or Fante are an Akan people.
This ethnic group is mainly gathered in the south-western coastal region of Ghana, with some also in the Côte d'Ivoire.
Their main city is Cape Coast, Ghana. They are one of the Akan peoples, along with the "'Asantefo'" or Ashantis, the Akuapem, the Akyem, the Guam, and others.
Despite the rapid growth of the Ashanti Empire in historic times, the Fanti have always retained their state to this day. Currently, they number about 2.5 million. Inheritance and succession to public office among the Fanti are determined mostly by matrilineal descent, as is common amongst most Akan peoples.
When the Portuguese arrived in the 15th century, the Fante prevented them from venturing inland and leased properties for Portuguese trading missions. But when the Portuguese objected to Fante rules and regulations the Fante expelled them. Thenceforth the Dutch arrived followed by the English, soon to be British. The Fante served as middlemen in the commerce between the interior and British and Dutch traders on the coast.




 

Fante / Fanti people/tribe

Doll / puppet

This particular figure wears very fine white beads.
The elaborate hairstyle is classical, typical for the past.
It is about 28 cm high.

bought from another collection on an auction of tribal art in Antwerpen, Belgium

NOT available

Similar object:


199 Standing female figure, Ghana, Fante
light brown wood, kaolin, black paint, crowned by horn-like coiffure, min. dam., fine cracks, slight traces of abrasion, socle;
such figures symbolize the female ideal of stability, balance and dignity and represent the principle of succession, meaning that the heritage is passed on by the female persons of the family.

H: 32 cm H: 12.6 inch

Provenance Joachim Schlotterbeck, Würzburg, Germany Oskar Oberle, Würzburg, Germany German Private Collection

Sold for: 500 €






Pair of figures, with beads

bought from a collector in Germany

not available anymore, sold











 


Ghana and Togo

Adan Ewe people

Statue / figure

 

not available








 


Kenya

Kande or Giryama / Giriama / Girayama, a subtribe of the Mijikenda / Miji kenda

Memory post / grave post / mortuary post

These posts are named vigango / vivangu / kigangu / gangu / kigango / kiganku / kikangu

"The Kigango's function is religious, social, cultural and psychological and forms a symbolic structure that bridges both worlds of the living and the dead by being half buried in the earth. lt is a visible reminder to the living to respect the ancestor but also by reciprocation the ancestor will protect the family. The post always faces West towards the setting sun.
When the spirit of the deceased appears in the dreams of the living and complains about the lack of a body, a kigango funerary post is erected. Vigango (plural of kigango) are not necessarily grave markers, for they do not mark the physical remains of the deceased. Instead, their role is to provide a new abode, in essence a new body, for the spirit of the deceased. In order to be honored with a kigango, the deceased had to be an important, and wealthy, member of the Giryama tribe.
The individual had to be initiated into one of the numerous societies that structure the rules of Giryama society. Vigango are generally placed inside the men's conversation hut of a homestead, easily accessible to the elder male of the clan, whose duty it is to pay frequent libations to the spirit of the deceased as represented by the kigango. Libations range from palm wine poured into small coconut shells placed at the base of the work to sacrificed chickens or goats.
...
Over time, the memory of the deceased would fade away as generations passed by and the kigango would be neglected, then forgotten when the homestead would be abandoned for brighter pastures."
cited in 2011 from
http://www.arts-primitifs.com/shop-africain/kikango-posts-kigango-funeral-post-mijikenda-giriama-rabai-tanzania-p-3347.html
 

The Kande subtribe creates posts with 3-dimensional heads, whereas the other sub-tribes create only 2-dimensional more abstract posts.

Available!

Bought in an antiques shop in Antwerpen, Belgium. The seller gave NO information about the objects.



see for instance:
Literatur:
Rubin, William (1984). Primitivism in 20th Century Art. New York: Museum of Modern Art.
Kerchache, Jacques (1988). Die Kunst des schwarzen Afrika. Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder Verlag.
Koloss, Hans-Joachim (1974). Ostafrika - Figur und Ornament. Hamburg: Hamburgisches Museum für Völkerkunde

photos of Kande posts in the book:
\



Die Giryama, welche ursprünglich aus Somalia kamen und heute parallel zum Küstenverlauf auf den Hügeln Kenias ansässig sind, besitzen eine soziale politisch-religiöse Organisation, die auf eng untereinander verbundenen Klans und auf einem System von Altersklassen basiert. Das Lebenszentrum ist die Klan eigene Grabstätte (kaya). An diesem heiligen Ort der Geister und Ahnen versammelten sich die Würdenträger zu Palavern. Jeder von ihnen hatte bei seinem Tod ein Anrecht auf eine ihn darstellende kigango Figur, die im kaya zu den schon vorhandenen gestellt wurde und so lange als die mächtigste respektiert wurde bis eine weitere hinzukam. Diese Gedenkporträts einflussreicher Männer und Frauen wurden mitunter beopfert, erfüllten die Nachfahren mit besonderem Stolz und waren nur Initiierten zugänglich. Der würdige Ausdruck der Bildwerke verweist auf die Seelengrösse der dargestellten Person, die Trauer und die Feierlichkeit.








 


Liberia or Ivory coast / Cote d' Ivoire / Elfenbeinküste / Costa D'Avorio, in West Africa

Dan people

Heddle pulley

available

on a professionally made, black, iron stand










 


Mali, West-Africa

Bamana / Bambara / (Baumana) / (Banbara) people/tribe

Female janiform figure in the style
of the Bamana / Bambara people or the neighbouring Marka/Warka and Bozo tribes/people

Information about Mali and the art from that country can be found on the WWW: http://www.vmfa.state.va.us/mali_geo_hist.html

Information about Bamana/Bambara ceremonies and art can be found for instance in the following sources:

Janus style head with two faces

Among the Bamana, puppets appear in villages on stages, where they represent various typecast characters living in the village.
The name associated with such events is Sogobo or Sogo Bo.
The puppets are known as Merekum/Merekun/Merenkun. They satirize social and personal behavior of specific kinds of people in society. The puppets often have arms or movable parts, are covered in clothing and are accompanied by songs. They often have two faces, Janus–like.

This piece is highly abstracted with a sculpturally reduced body ending in a base upon which it rests. Smaller heads or puppets were originally planted on top of this head, but these are not present on this old object anymore.
Pieces like these may represent the Chief and his subjects, as well as the family and children; the Janus head represents both King and Queen and mother and father. A classical meaning of a Janus head is considering the past and the future at the same time.
The piece is made of light-coloured wood and has been coloured to be darker; it is decorated in some places with red cloth and hammered sheets of yellow metal.
A similar piece belongs to the Anthropology Collections of the American Museum of Natural History.

NOT available

stands up by itself

bought in Antwerp, Belgium











 

Dogon people

The Dogon live in the East of Mali along the Bandiagara escarpment, a range of cliffs approximately 120 miles long and in places up to one thousand feet high, in small villages on the plain at the foot of the escarpment.

The Dogon have been studied relatively well, so that information about their way of living and their art can be found in many publications. See for instance

Dogon art is extremely versatile.

The following text fragments about the Dogon are quoted from http://www.zyama.com/:

“The 250,000 Dogon live 180 miles south of Timbuktu on the cliffs of Bandiagara, which dominate the plains for over 150 miles. At first hunters, now on their small fields they cultivate millet, sorghum, wheat, and onion. The millet is stored in high quadrangular granaries around which they build their houses. Because of the difficult approach to these regions and the aridity of the climate, the Dogon have been isolated and hence were able to conserve their ancient religious habits and ways of making the necessary implements, their carvings.

Dogon social and religious organizations are closely interlinked and out of this arose principal cults, which accounts for the richness and diversity of Dogon culture and art. The hogon is the religious leader of a region, in charge of the cult of lebe, the mythical serpent. Assisted by the blacksmith, he presides over agrarian ceremonies. The clans are subdivided onto lineages, overseen by the patriarch, guardian of the clan’s ancestral shrine and officiant at the totemic animal cult. Beside this hierarchical system of consanguinity, male and female associations are entrusted with the initiations that take place by age group, corresponding to groups of newly circumcised or excised boys or girls. The Dogon believe these operations remove the female element from males and vice versa. Circumcision thus creates a wholly male or female person prepared to assume an adult role. The members of an age group owe one another assistance until the day they die. Initiation of boys begins after their circumcision, with the teaching of the myths annotated by drawings and paintings. The young boys will learn the place of humans in nature, society, and the universe. In the Dogon pantheon Amma appears as the original creator of all the forces of the universe and of his descendant Lebe, the god of plant rebirth. Amma is also the creator of the ancestors of each clan. Among the many other gods, Nommo, the water spirit, is often represented in conjunction with Amma. For these various cults the hogon is both priest and political chief of the village. The smiths and woodcarvers, who form a separate caste, transmit their profession by heredity. They may only marry within their own caste. Women are in charge of pottery making.”

The following text fragments about Dogon art and statues in particular are also quoted from http://www.zyama.com/:

“Dogon art is extremely versatile, although common stylistic characteristics – such as a tendency towards stylization – are apparent on the statues. Their art deals with the myths whose complex ensemble regulates the life of the individual. The sculptures are preserved in innumerable sites of worship, personal or family altars, altars for rain, altars to protect hunters, in market. As a general characterization of Dogon statues, one could say that they render the human body in a simplified way, reducing it to its essentials. Some are extremely elongated with emphasis on geometric forms. The subjective impression is one of immobility with a mysterious sense of a solemn gravity and serene majesty, although conveying at the same time a latent movement. Dogon sculpture recreates the hermaphroditic silhouettes of the Tellem, featuring raised arms and a thick patina made of blood and millet beer. The four Nommo couples, the mythical ancestors born of the god Amma, ornament stools, pillars or men’s meeting houses, door locks, and granary doors. The primordial couple is represented sitting on a stool, the base of which depicts the earth while the upper surface represents the sky; the two are interconnected by the Nommo. The seated female figures, their hands on their abdomen, are linked to the fertility cult, incarnating the first ancestor who died in childbirth, and are the object of offerings of food and sacrifices by women who are expecting a child. Kneeling statues of protective spirits are placed at the head of the dead to absorb their spiritual strength and to be their intermediaries with the world of the dead, into which they accompany the deceased before once again being placed on the shrines of the ancestors. Horsemen are remainders of the fact that, according to myth, the horse was the first animal present on earth.

The Dogon style has evolved into a kind of cubism: ovoid head, squared shoulders, tapered extremities, pointed breasts, forearms, and thighs on a parallel plane, hairdos stylized by three or four incised lines.

Dogon sculptures serve as a physical medium in initiations and as an explanation of the world. They serve to transmit an understanding to the initiated, who will decipher the statue according to the level of their knowledge.

Carved animal figures, such as dogs and ostriches, are placed on village foundation altars to commemorate sacrificed animals, while granary doors, stools and house posts are also adorned with figures and symbols.”

from http://tribart.blogspot.com/ we learn the following:

The DOGON from northern Mali are called HABRE (unbelievers) by the Fulani, because they resisted Islam, and following their migration under pressure from the MOSSI kingdom, they sought shelter among the rocky country at the foot of the Bandiagara and Hombori mountains where they wrested fields from the arid ground with the aid of artificial irrigation.

Their carving is of great variety and interest, and much is known about the ancient myths to which the sculptures refer. Their creator god was AMMA and there were eight NOMMO who are regarded as his messengers and as incarnations of his life force. It was also the Nommo who became men.

The seventh NOMMO who became man was the HOGON or High Priest and was the smith and it was he who arrived on earth either in an ark or on horseback bringing important cultural materials and techniques. The myths tell of the god AMMA who created the earth from clay. The earth was feminine and the termite hill represented the clitoris. AMMA had intercourse with the earth who was an unwilling partner and from this union was born DYOUGOU and SEROU who in turn committed incest with his mother. Statues of these two often depict them with their hands over their eyes symbolizing shame over the act of incest. Because the initial act of creation had got off to such a bad start, AMMA decided to excise the earth’s clitoris and once again had intercourse with her and the offspring of this union was a pair of strange beings known as NOMMO. The NOMMO had supple bodies with no joints and only one single leg in the shape of a drumstick. The pair were bisexual, but the male element dominated in one and the female in the other. The latter gave birth to four NOMMO couples considered to be the eight original ancestors of man.

The much celebrated DOGON door locks are seldom found in the shape of the NOMMO but the shape is common in other DOGON sculptures. The head is a semicircular form resting on two breasts which form the neck. Visually, the body of the lock becomes the body of the figure. Door locks are becoming increasingly rare with the spread of ISLAM. Peer pressure often forces people to remove the door locks and another reason is fear that they will be stolen for resale. Many of the old family locks are kept hidden in the home against such occurrences. There are no known large collections of door locks which makes comparison of styles and designs very difficult.
 

Wooden figure/statue in the style of the Dogon people/tribe from Mali

available !

very heavy, made of dense wood, which is in agreement with descriptions of other Dogon wooden figures

stands up by itself

bought on an auction of African art in Antwerp, Belgium












 


Tanzania

Zaramo / Kwere tribes

wooden Mwana Hiti dolls

small pieces of about 9 cm high

Bought in Brussels from a dealer in antiques in 2014.

Mwana hiti, a term that means "child made of wood", refers to magical figures that depict a highly stylized female torso with a crested head. The crests represent the shaved head of girls who emerge from initiation camp with "Mohican" ridges of hair. Zaramo female initiates keep such figures during their period of seclusion and coming out ceremonies. After the initiation the girl wears the doll around her neck or holds it in her hand and keeps it as a fertility emblem until she marries and has children of her own.
http://www.tribalartfinder.com/product.php?productid=367 in 2014

More information about this kind of statuettes is published in an exhibition catalog:
Emilia Epštajn
Mwana Hiti: More Than Just a Doll (from the Guibert Hairson collection) MWANA HITI: VISE OD LUTKE. IZ ZBIRKE GIBERA ERSONA.
Belgrado
Museum of African Art
2008
97 pp.
ISBN 978 86 85249 05 1
Text in Serbian and English.
Exh. cat. Beograd
MUZEJ AFRIČKE UMETNOSTI poziva Vas na otvaranje izložbe
MWANA HITI : VIŠE OD LUTKE / iz zbirke Gibera Ersona
sreda, 17. decembar 2008. u 19h
Izložbu otvaraju / opening word prof. dr Senka Kovač ::: Guibert Hairson
Museum of African Art
Andre Nikolića 14
11000 Belgrade, Serbia
Tel: + 381 11 2651 654
Fax: + 381 11 2651 269
e-mail:
info@museumofafricanart.org
only 700 copies printed

Product Description:
The Mwana hiti: more than just a doll catalogue and exhibition are the result of study based on a number of pieces from the Belgian private collection of Guibert Hairson. Initiation trunk figures, staffs of high-ranking members of the community, fly whisks made out of a decorated wooden handle, a container for medicinal and magical substances, a memorial post and throne-stool, spoons for the ceremonial preparation and food consumption; as well as more than forty hairpins, combs and hair decorations are brought together by one image — the mwana hiti. The mwana hiti most commonly appears in the form of a wooden figure recognisable for its stylised head and coiffure constituted of one or two crests and spherical lateral projections and a "firm", tube-like body with marked protrusions on the level of breasts and navel. Sometimes. as in the example of hairpins or the memorial post, the whole body is fully depicted with clearly defined hands and legs.
The Museum of African Art collections contain objects mainly from the rich heritage of West Africa. A step outside of the principal collection, with the aim of presenting the complex cultural heritage of Africa is achieved through collaborative work between the Museum and those individuals that own valuable and for the museum and academic public, important pieces of material culture from Africa. One such collaboration based on the Hairson collection offered a specific outlook on the royal and daily inventory of the Kuba people of the Kongo (through the Regard sur les Kuba exhibition at the Museum of African Art in Belgrade 2006/2007) and continues today with a selection of pieces made by the Zaramo and Kwere of Tanzania.

Besides the fact that significant field-work has been conducted and relevant anthropological studies written on East Africa, its peoples and their material culture. the mwana hiti figure and image are mentioned only sporadically. Africa entered the grand arch of the history of art of the world through sculpture which in time became the synonym for African art. Compared to the rich sculptural production of West and Central Africa, it was taken for granted that sculpture as such does not exist in East Africa owing to a number of reasons, such as that nomadic, warrior communities had no inclinations for this form of expression, or that the strong impact of Islam in the area dictated the strict use of geometric and abstract forms, prohibiting the representation of the human figure, and also that certain socio-political instabilities had their impact in this field of artistic expression. However, the angle of observation may have posed a greater problem in the matter because it disregarded the field of art the peoples of this part of Africa felt most comfortable with in the complex process of manifesting and materialising their beliefs. social structures and religious concepts. The shift in outlook opened a whole treasury of oral tradition, music, dance, architecture. but also revealed rare and valuable objects such as clay figures of the people of Tanganyika*, or the mwana hiti figure of the Zaramo and Kwere of eastern Tanzania.

My due thanks for providing not only the collection but also valuable bibliographic units go to the Museum of African Art's now well established associate and friend. the Belgian collector Guibert Hairson. Thanks to him initial contact was made with Marc Felix art historian and author of one of the most thorough studies of the mwana hiti figure and image as stylistic expression of a group of Tanzanian peoples. It is thanks to his generosity that certain maps and photographs were reproduced to complement the exhibition and catalogue for which I hope will be of help to viewers and readers in the process of appreciating the material culture that comes from a different place and now most likely, a very different time.

(*) The old name for the continental territory of the modern United Republic of Tanzania made up of Tanganyika and Zanzibar.










 


Togo & Benin

Ewe=Evhe & Fon people

Statuette for Vodoo = Vodun

 

not available

bought on an auction of African art in Antwerpen, Belgium
 

Small, fine statue (wood + rope + peg)

This particular figure is about 10 cm high with an old age crack

NOT available

bought on an auction of tribal art, icluding African art in Antwerp/Antwerpen, Belgium, in the 1970's
 

Figures / fetishes / charms made and used in primarily in Benin (formerly called Dahomey) and Togo. This region is occupied by several linguistically related groups. These include Fon and Ewe.

The statues are named Bocchio / Bochio / Boccio / Bocie / Bocio / Botchio.
They are related to the diverse secret Vodum / Vodun / Voodoo / Vaudou ceremonies in which the participants want to contact the spirit world to exploit magical, spiritual forces.

The roots of the word "bocie" are

so that bocie signifies an empowered cadaver, an object of power which resembles a human being.

Big wooden bocie statues represent the body of persons and are planted in the ground, for instance at the entrance of a village or house. Thus such a bochio should protect the inhabitants by chasing away prowlers and ghosts.

Some photos of examples are printed for instance in
Jacques Kerchache, Jean-Louis Paudrat, Lucien Stephan,
L'art et les grandes civililitations: L'art africain.
Paris : Editions Mazenod, 1988, 620 pp., pp. 390-391.

"The Fon people live in the Dahomey kingdom, which is part of the Republic of Benin. Oral tradition suggests the Dahomey kingdom was created by a Yoruba princess some time before the 17th century. During the 18th century, its territories expanded and they took part in the slave trade with the French colonials. Two categories of Fon objects can be distinguished.
The first includes royal paraphernalia such as Icing figures, commemorative iron staffs, called Asen, small metal emblematic figures and sceptres decorated with a zoomorphic blade.
The second category of objects is called Bocio and relates to the Vodun or magical ceremonies undertaken to contact the spirit world and trap harmful forces. The word Vodun is derived from the Yoruba language and also refers to the Fon gods. The Bocio are wooden figures made by blacksmiths under the order of a Fa diviner. They are usually set on a peg and covered with magical substances to the extent that the figure may be hidden. These substances are made of blood, palm oil, beer and animal parts and are believed to give power to the bocio."
(source = Ethnographica WWW site, 2002)

"Outre l'art de la cour, les Fon ont adopté les vodun (corruption du mot yoruba signifiant dieu), exportés au Brésil et en Haïti en même temps que les esclaves dont le commerce a été pratiqué sur une grande échelle pendant plus de deux siècles. D'abord affirmation d'un monde surnaturel, le vodun est constitué également par une série de procédures diverses permettant d'entrer en relation avec le monde de l'au-delà. Les membres du vodun demandent à leur religion une efficacité directe dans ce monde-ci et une garantie dans l'au-delà.
Les Fon du Dahomey et les Yoruba du Nigeria ont une culture sensiblement uniforme : sous des noms différents, les divinités ont des attributs et un rituel similaires. Le terme même du vodun est dahoméen, les Yoruba employant le terme d'orisha.
Au sommet du panthéon dahoméen, règne Mawu, dieu suprême entouré de dieux apparentés, groupés en un panthéon parfois hiérarchisé. Aux grands dieux de la nature, s'ajoutent une multitude d'êtres divinisés: ancêtres des clans, monstres et fotus de lignées royales, dieux des tribus soumises qui ont été assimilés ou mêmes achetés, comme le serpent de Ouidah.
Autrefois, les princes du Sud-Dahomey faisaient reposer leur puissance sur les vodun et en tiraient tous les avantages leur permettant d'assurer leur autorité. A Allada, à Abomey ou à Porto-Novo, l'un des ministres les plus importants était Yakioga, gardien des vodun tutélaires du royaume et ordonnateur des grandes cérémonies religieuses. De leur côté, les rois avaient également leurs devins personnels qui interprétaient la volonté des vodun.
...
Dans les vodun des "couvents", la partie sculptée disparaît sous l'accumulation d'un matériel qui lui confère sa puissance: mâchoires d'animal ou d'homme, pieux, taquets, cadenas, clous, plumes, poils, ingrédients magiques, amulettes de toutes sortes liées par de fines cordelettes, le tout recouvert d'une croûte épaisse formée par le sang versé, les offrandes de vin de palme, de bière de mil ou d'huile. En outre, l'objet est orné de perles, cloches, tissu, miroirs qui rehaussent son étrangeté. La fourrure, les plumes, les dents, les mâchoires, les peaux de serpents ou d'autres reptiles sont les éléments nécessaires du rituel et réactivent l'efficacité et la puissance de l'objet. Jamais gratuites, ces " accumulations " d'origine animale ou végétale font référence à une connaissance réelle ou imaginaire: la griffe d'aigle donne la puissance, le bec de canard impose la discrétion. Cet ensemble aboutit à des objets étranges, parfois inquiétants, marques d'un surnaturel que l'on connaît mal, le plus souvent volontairement ignoré.
Un fétiche ne peut être acheté sur le marché; tous étaient cachés aux yeux du public. Pour le confectionner, on a recours à la divination du fa qui, par l'intermédiaire du devin, indiquera la liste des matériaux et les formules magiques qui devront accompagner sa fabrication pour le sacraliser. La géomancie du fa ou divination par des noix de palmier a été élaborée par un clergé instruit. Fa personnifie le destin; à chaque naissance et à chaque étape de l'initiation, on le consulte comme pour chaque voyage ou une quelconque entreprise. Le préposé au fa est rétribué par le consultant, il officie à l'aide de noix jetées sur un plateau, parfois très bien sculpté. La divination par le fa est aussi utilisée pour les décisions politiques ou culturelles: les devins sont alors les mandataires du pouvoir. Après le devin, le féticheur entre en scène. Mais pour acquérir une grande renommée, il doit avoir une connaissance approfondie de la pharmacopée. Le culte du vodun, encore très actif à l'heure actuelle, n'est pas unique, mais il a pris une ampleur exceptionnelle dans cette région de l'Afrique où il est né."
(cited from http://perso.wanadoo.fr/africart/pages/fonsyn.htm 2005)

ART DES EVHE
La population Evhé est répartie au Togo et au Ghana entre le lac Togo et la Volta.
Les migrations provoquées par l'esclavage, les guerres ou plus simplement, la conquête d'espaces vierges ont été à l'origine de métissages entre familles d'origines diverses.
On apparente volontiers la civilisation des Evhé à celle des Yoruba avec lesquels ils partagent un certain nombre de grandes divinités. En ce sens, on va même jusqu'à estimer qu'ils représentent le dernier bastion avancé des cultures d'Ife et d'Oyo.
Mais les Evhé se rattachent autant au monde akan, en particulier ashanti, qu'à celui des Yoruba. Mieux vaut donc les considérer comme un groupe original à part entière, à mi-chemin entre les civilisations du Bénin et celles des Akan.
Les Evhé ont constitué des collectivités paysannes disposant d'une structure démocratique fondée sur des assemblées de chefs et de notables. Bien qu'ils n'aient pas connu d'organisation politique centralisée très durable, c'est la cohésion de leur culture qui leur a permis de traverser les étapes de la colonisation et de la décolonisation en préservant le sens de leur communauté.
Les Evhé ont un sens du sacré très développé et les activités de nature religieuse occupent une large place dans leur vie.
La religion Evhé est un vaste ensemble. Elle est organisée autour d'un Dieu suprême, une Mère universelle, des génies du destin, une multitude de divinités, d'esprits désincarnés, de fétiches etc. Tous ces éléments participent d'un même processus qui n'a d'autre fin que l'accomplissement du monde et l'éveil des âmes humaines qui y contribuent.
La cause première de toutes choses, clef de voûte des conceptions des Evhé est nommée Mawu. On appelle Mawu tout ce qui dépasse les facultés de compréhension humaine, sur quoi on évite donc de se prononcer et dont on ne peut jamais acquérir que la conviction intime de l'existence. Bien que tout vienne de lui et que tout tende vers lui, ce n'est pas à lui que l'homme s'adresse mais à des entités qui ont pouvoir d'intervenir.
Aux yeux des Evhé, tout ce qui existe sur terre a pris naissance et garde fondement dans un autre monde dont nous nous trouvons éloignés. Cet empire souterrain subsiste sous nos pieds, à l'intérieur même de la Terre, dans un espace contrôlé par le Dieu suprême Mawu et par la Mère universelle, qui veille aux modalités de départ dans l'autre monde. Chaque nuit le soleil passe dans cet univers, et la lune y pénètre à chaque fin de cycle.
Chez les Evhé comme chez les Kokomba, le culte des ancêtres est lié au culte de la nature. Les profondeurs de la terre ne sont-elles pas l'ultime demeure des défunts? Cependant, il n'existe chez les Evhé aucun autel d'ancêtre. Quand ils doivent immoler des animaux à leurs ancêtres, c'est l'ancien qui offre le sacrifice aux morts et qui jette sur leurs tombes la semence rituelle: sang de chèvre ou de poulet, haricots, … Un mort qui a faim peut en effet manifester son courroux. Afin de s'attirer les bénédictions des parents défunts, on apporte donc régulièrement sur leur tombeau boisson et nourriture.
Les Evhé sont tentés de n'accorder aucun privilège à une voie particulière de filiation. De leur point de vue, un père et une mère jouent le même rôle dans la procréation et l'éducation d'un enfant. Ils ont à son égard des devoirs complémentaires de même importance.
Alors que les divinités des femmes et celles des hommes restent confinées dans les limites des familles et des lignages, les divinités dites de troisième espèce - liées à la magie, à l'art et à l'expression du caractère - occupent finalement une position dominante. De telles divinités supérieures ne travaillent pas elles-mêmes à obtenir pour les vivants les grâces qu'ils méritent mais président aux travaux que les autres divinités poursuivent en ce sens.
Selon les Evhé, Dieu se soucie fort peu des hommages pouvant lui être rendus par ses créatures. Source de toute chose et tout-puissant, il n'a besoin ni de prières, ni de sacrifices et, bien qu'on ne manque jamais de célébrer son nom dans toute importante cérémonie, il ne fait l'objet d'aucun culte spécifique. Il se contente de présider au déroulement d'une création hors de laquelle il s'est lui-même retiré après en avoir fixé les lois et avoir chargé divers êtres soumis à lui d'en assurer la surveillance et le perfectionnement. La religion correspondante se moque éperdument de plaire sans raison valable à des divinités que l'on voit souvent injuriées et menacées d'abandon si elles ne s'acquittent pas correctement de leurs fonctions.
Comme leurs voisins de l'ancienne Côte des Esclaves, les Evhé entretiennent et vénèrent également des entités appelées vodu dont beaucoup ont essaimé jusqu'en Haïti et au Brésil. Les vodu concentrent de l'énergie psychique sur des compositions matérielles pouvant attirer à elles un certain type d'esprits insatisfaits de défunts dont il semble utile de mettre à profit les capacités. Bien que les vodu n'accaparent pas toutes les préoccupations religieuses, ils n'ont pas grand sens, considérés isolément.
Il est intéressant de constater que les vodu ont des relations particulières avec les âmes des "mauvais morts". La "mauvaise mort" est celle qui touche ceux qui ont fait subir de graves manquements aux prescriptions des ancêtres en matière de morale individuelle ou sociale. Après avoir retiré la vie à une personne, les vodu la retiennent généralement auprès d'eux. Par ailleurs, certains de leurs fidèles peuvent aussi être frappés de mauvaise mort, et préfèrent se rendre utiles en se mettant à leur disposition plutôt que d'errer n'importe où en importunant n'importe qui.
Il existe trois types de "mauvais morts":
- Tous ceux qui ont péri par le fer ou en relation avec la puissance du fer (Gu) (à la chasse, à la guerre, …). Ils se transforment en Adela c'est-à-dire en chasseurs. On leur consacre essentiellement de petites statuettes de bois, mâle et femelle, représentant les deux pôles imaginaires de leur âme. Associées à un petit trône de bois à cinq pieds, elles sont invitées à s'y asseoir afin de se recharger d'une énergie spirituelle dont elles sont friandes.
- À ceux qui ont succombé à une agression magique perpétrée au moyen de charmes liés à la puissance des plantes, on consacre une petite motte de terre éventuellement garnie de cauris sous laquelle ont été placées des feuilles.
- Ceux dont on suppose que le décès a été directement décrété d'en haut sont assimilés à une sorte de vodu Da (qui règne dans l'espace intermédiaire entre le monde visible et l'au-delà) et leur case comporte essentiellement des figurations de ce vodu Da ainsi qu'un couple de poteries remplies d'eau, substance originaire du ciel.
Dans certaines régions, comme en pays anlo, ce principe de classification en trois des "mauvais morts" se reflète dans les fréquents regroupements, à l'intérieur d'une même pièce, des sanctuaires de Da, Adela et Agè. Outre les poteries de Da sur une estrade, d'autres statuettes sont entreposées sur une même étagère ou sur deux étagères voisines:
- Des couples de statuettes d'Adela, portant un fusil sur l'épaule ou un fusil miniature.
- Des couples de statuettes d'Agè (maître des esprits de la brousse et de la forêt ainsi que des plantes et des activités magiques), n'ayant qu'un seul bras et une seule jambe (le gauche) en référence aux arbres qui sont constitués d'un seul tronc enraciné en terre.
- Les couples de statuettes d'Adela et d'Agè sont des symboles de la divinité de la magie. À côté, l'on trouve également des statuettes pour les âmes des victimes de pratiques magiques ou des pièges de la brousse. Ces dernières sont des couples de statuettes ordinaires, à deux bras et à deux jambes, mais elles ne portent pas de fusil. Elles sont appelées Avlé.
- Il existe également des statuettes n'ayant qu'une jambe, un bras et un œil: elles se rapportent à Dente, très ancienne divinité, détentrice de pouvoirs magiques provenant des plantes. Dente dispensait également des oracles très réputés.
Enfin, il faut noter que dans quelques cantons, la case sacrée n'accueille pas de statuettes. C'est le cas dans les cantons de Dzolo et de Vogan par exemple.

Pour ce qui est de la divination, l'Evhé considère qu'elle lui permet accessoirement d'être informé de ce qui se passe dans le monde hors de portée de ses sens. Elle complète ainsi sa connaissance de l'état présent de l'au-delà, depuis lequel tout arrive, par des connaissances de l'état présent du monde visible. En revanche, on ne compte pas sur la divination pour révéler l'avenir.

S'en remettre uniquement aux divinités pour amorcer une gestation d'événements meilleurs ne suffit pas non plus à donner entière satisfaction aux hommes. C'est pourquoi ils fabriquent et manipulent concurremment des puissances leur permettant d'être protégés de nombreux sorts ou de diriger plutôt ceux-ci sur des ennemis.
Ces pratiques magiques s'appuient sur des compositions matérielles qui ont pour but de jeter, détourner ou se protéger d'un mauvais sort. Ce sont précisément des compositions de ce genre que les premiers voyageurs portugais n'hésitèrent pas à désigner d'emblée comme "feitissos", terme dont la traduction par "fétiche" fut par la suite abusivement utilisée par de nombreux missionnaires et théoriciens. Chez les Evhé, on ne rend jamais un culte à un fétiche, mais on "fait fétiche" en s'appuyant avant tout sur les vertus magiques des plantes.
Certaines statues, installées près du portail d'une enceinte publique ou privée, ont moins vocation de filtrer les entrées que de communiquer prières et offrandes à des esprits qu'il ne convient pas d'y introduire. Cependant, en permettant de satisfaire de l'extérieur toutes sortes d'esprits errants, elles remplissent évidemment aussi une fonction de protection.
Elles s'inscrivent dans ce vaste panthéon qui s'articule autour de Fa, conseiller du royaume tant sur le plan politique, social, culturel que religieux et porte-parole de tous les dieux.
Elles ont un rôle de sentinelle: elles relèvent de la magie apotropaïque. Elles protègent un village, un quartier, un lignage, une société secrète, une famille ou un individu. Elles sont chargées d'écarter les dangers venus de l'extérieur mais également tout motif de discorde, de division ou de litige à l'intérieur d'un groupe. Elles sont donc à la fois gardiennes de l'ordre et garant de l'harmonie.
En tant que divinités tutélaires et ancestrales, ayant séjourné au pays des ombres, elles peuvent aussi servir d'intermédiaire entre les vivants et les morts d'une même famille ou éloigner les revenants. Comme l'a écrit Malraux: "le vaudou implique la familiarité quotidienne avec le surnaturel".

Bibliographie sur les Evhé:
- Albert de Surgy, "Le système religieux des Evhé", Ed. L'Harmattan, Coll. Connaissance des hommes, 1988.
- Albert de Surgy, "La géomancie et le culte d'Afa chez les Evhé du littoral", Publications orientalistes de France.
- C. Rivière, "Anthropologie religieuse des Evé du Togo".
- C. Rivière, "Union et procréation en Afrique, rites de la vie chez les Evé du Togo", Ed. L'Harmattan, 1990.
- A.B. Ellis, "The Ewe-speaking peoples of the slave coast of West Africa", Anthropological publications, 1966.
- Actes du colloque international sur les civilisations Aja-Ewé", Cotonou, 1-5/12/1977, Université nationale du Bénin, Faculté des Lettres et Sciences Humaines, département d'histoire et d'archéologie.
- "Sociologie des sociétés orales d'Afrique noire, les Evé du sud Togo, Paris Mouton & Co, La Haye, 1969.
- Encyclopédie nationale du Togo, chapitre "Coutumes et traditions".

Xavière LERAY (cited from the WWW, 2005)

 

A text with photos about bocie can be found through
http://ux1.eiu.edu/~cfrb/bociereview.htm

Voodoo/Vodun ceremonies and objects from the Fon and Ewe people in Benin (formerly called Dahomey) and Togo in West-Africa are illustrated with photos and texts: http://www.africa-photo.com/museum_shop/d_afrika_galerie.htm

These figures are made by blacksmiths under the order of a diviner.

Many carry pegs or padlocks.
The padlock is the modern version of the peg.
These objects may indicate

Long twin figure

Not in the collection anymore.

This statue/figure is long in comparison with most other similar figures.

Provenance: from the German Gallery A. Bermel, Berlin

The Ewe live in the south of Togo and Ghana. They made many venavi and hohovi twin-figures for deceased twins.
This strong female piece is well fed. The body was probably dressed, because this is normal when these figures are used and because the lower part shows less wear and shiny patine.

Twin figures are made by the Yoruba (who call them Ibeji or Ibedji) and the Ewe (who call them Venavi), as well as the Fon (who call them Hohovi).

The Ewe (Eve, Evhe, Krepi, Popo) people live in Southeastern Ghana and in the Southern parts of Togo and Benin. They are the eastern neighbours of the Ashanti.
They have a twin cult which has many parallels with the Yoruba ibeji twin cult. If one twin dies, the parents have an "ewewo" made. They treat this as if it were a living child: it is washed, clothed and fed. see:
Dolls for play and ritual. Berg en Dal, Nederland : Afrika Museum, 1995.

Most Ewe statues are small and roughly carved out of wood. They are used as children's dolls, fertility dolls, and worn under the skirts of young women. They were also put in local family shrines and were sometimes kept under ones' mattress to ensure fertility.
Dolls with broken arms or legs were considered as more powerful.
Some are dressed and beaded.

The Ewe occupy southeastern Ghana and the southern parts of neighboring Togo and Benin. On the west, the Volta separates the Ewe from the Ga-Adangbe, Ga, and Akan. Subdivisions of the Ewe include the Anglo (Anlo), Bey (Be), and Gen on the coast, and the Peki, Ho, Kpando, Tori, and Ave in the interior. Oral tradition suggests that the Ewe immigrated into Ghana before the midfifteenth century. Although the Ewe have been described as a single language group, there is considerable dialectic variation. Some of these dialects are mutually intelligible, but only with difficulty.
Unlike the political and social organization of the Akan, where matrilineal rule prevails, the Ewe are essentially a patrilineal people. The founder of a community became the chief and was usually succeeded by his paternal relatives. The largest independent political unit was a chiefdom, the head of which was essentially a ceremonial figure who was assisted by a council of elders. Chiefdoms ranged in population from a few hundred people in one or two villages to several thousand in a chiefdom with a large number of villages and surrounding countryside. Unlike the Asante among the Akan, no Ewe chiefdom gained hegemonic power over its neighbor. The rise of Ewe nationalism in both Ghana and Togo was more of a reaction to the May 1956 plebiscite that partitioned Eweland between the Gold Coast and Togo than to any sense of overriding ethnic unity.
Substantial differences in local economies were characteristic of the Ewe. Most Ewe were farmers who kept some livestock, and there was some craft specialization. On the coast and immediately inland, fishing was important, and local variations in economic activities permitted a great deal of trade between one community and another, carried out chiefly by women.

The Ewe, who live in southern Togo and Ghana are the eastern neighbors of Asante. They are probably best known for their textiles and also for small
wooden dolls called "venovi" or "venavi" which are used like the Yoruba people in Nigeria used Ibeji twin figurines, for protection of survivor after death
of a twin. Some scholars state that they are also used as children's dolls as well as sometimes used as fertility dolls by women who keep these dolls
under their mattresses or were worn under the skirts of young women to ensure fertility. Scarifications and added clothing and strings of beads reveal
family and clan religious and social affiliations.

 

ART DES EVHE

La population Evhé est répartie au Togo et au Ghana entre le lac Togo et la Volta.

Les migrations provoquées par l'esclavage, les guerres ou plus simplement, la conquête d'espaces vierges ont été à l'origine de métissages entre familles d'origines diverses.

On apparente volontiers la civilisation des Evhé à celle des Yoruba avec lesquels ils partagent un certain nombre de grandes divinités. En ce sens, on va même jusqu'à estimer qu'ils représentent le dernier bastion avancé des cultures d'Ife et d'Oyo.

Mais les Evhé se rattachent autant au monde akan, en particulier ashanti, qu'à celui des Yoruba. Mieux vaut donc les considérer comme un groupe original à part entière, à mi-chemin entre les civilisations du Bénin et celles des Akan.

Les Evhé ont constitué des collectivités paysannes disposant d'une structure démocratique fondée sur des assemblées de chefs et de notables. Bien qu'ils n'aient pas connu d'organisation politique centralisée très durable, c'est la cohésion de leur culture qui leur a permis de traverser les étapes de la colonisation et de la décolonisation en préservant le sens de leur communauté.

Les Evhé ont un sens du sacré très développé et les activités de nature religieuse occupent une large place dans leur vie.

La religion Evhé est un vaste ensemble. Elle est organisée autour d'un Dieu suprême, une Mère universelle, des génies du destin, une multitude de divinités, d'esprits désincarnés, de fétiches etc. Tous ces éléments participent d'un même processus qui n'a d'autre fin que l'accomplissement du monde et l'éveil des âmes humaines qui y contribuent.

La cause première de toutes choses, clef de voûte des conceptions des Evhé est nommée Mawu. On appelle Mawu tout ce qui dépasse les facultés de compréhension humaine, sur quoi on évite donc de se prononcer et dont on ne peut jamais acquérir que la conviction intime de l'existence. Bien que tout vienne de lui et que tout tende vers lui, ce n'est pas à lui que l'homme s'adresse mais à des entités qui ont pouvoir d'intervenir.

Aux yeux des Evhé, tout ce qui existe sur terre a pris naissance et garde fondement dans un autre monde dont nous nous trouvons éloignés. Cet empire souterrain subsiste sous nos pieds, à l'intérieur même de la Terre, dans un espace contrôlé par le Dieu suprême Mawu et par la Mère universelle, qui veille aux modalités de départ dans l'autre monde. Chaque nuit le soleil passe dans cet univers, et la lune y pénètre à chaque fin de cycle.

Chez les Evhé comme chez les Kokomba, le culte des ancêtres est lié au culte de la nature. Les profondeurs de la terre ne sont-elles pas l'ultime demeure des défunts? Cependant, il n'existe chez les Evhé aucun autel d'ancêtre. Quand ils doivent immoler des animaux à leurs ancêtres, c'est l'ancien qui offre le sacrifice aux morts et qui jette sur leurs tombes la semence rituelle: sang de chèvre ou de poulet, haricots, … Un mort qui a faim peut en effet manifester son courroux. Afin de s'attirer les bénédictions des parents défunts, on apporte donc régulièrement sur leur tombeau boisson et nourriture.

Les Evhé sont tentés de n'accorder aucun privilège à une voie particulière de filiation. De leur point de vue, un père et une mère jouent le même rôle dans la procréation et l'éducation d'un enfant. Ils ont à son égard des devoirs complémentaires de même importance.

Alors que les divinités des femmes et celles des hommes restent confinées dans les limites des familles et des lignages, les divinités dites de troisième espèce - liées à la magie, à l'art et à l'expression du caractère - occupent finalement une position dominante. De telles divinités supérieures ne travaillent pas elles-mêmes à obtenir pour les vivants les grâces qu'ils méritent mais président aux travaux que les autres divinités poursuivent en ce sens.

Selon les Evhé, Dieu se soucie fort peu des hommages pouvant lui être rendus par ses créatures. Source de toute chose et tout-puissant, il n'a besoin ni de prières, ni de sacrifices et, bien qu'on ne manque jamais de célébrer son nom dans toute importante cérémonie, il ne fait l'objet d'aucun culte spécifique. Il se contente de présider au déroulement d'une création hors de laquelle il s'est lui-même retiré après en avoir fixé les lois et avoir chargé divers êtres soumis à lui d'en assurer la surveillance et le perfectionnement. La religion correspondante se moque éperdument de plaire sans raison valable à des divinités que l'on voit souvent injuriées et menacées d'abandon si elles ne s'acquittent pas correctement de leurs fonctions.

Comme leurs voisins de l'ancienne Côte des Esclaves, les Evhé entretiennent et vénèrent également des entités appelées vodu dont beaucoup ont essaimé jusqu'en Haïti et au Brésil. Les vodu concentrent de l'énergie psychique sur des compositions matérielles pouvant attirer à elles un certain type d'esprits insatisfaits de défunts dont il semble utile de mettre à profit les capacités. Bien que les vodu n'accaparent pas toutes les préoccupations religieuses, ils n'ont pas grand sens, considérés isolément.

Il est intéressant de constater que les vodu ont des relations particulières avec les âmes des "mauvais morts". La "mauvaise mort" est celle qui touche ceux qui ont fait subir de graves manquements aux prescriptions des ancêtres en matière de morale individuelle ou sociale. Après avoir retiré la vie à une personne, les vodu la retiennent généralement auprès d'eux. Par ailleurs, certains de leurs fidèles peuvent aussi être frappés de mauvaise mort, et préfèrent se rendre utiles en se mettant à leur disposition plutôt que d'errer n'importe où en importunant n'importe qui.

Il existe trois types de "mauvais morts":

- Tous ceux qui ont péri par le fer ou en relation avec la puissance du fer (Gu) (à la chasse, à la guerre, …). Ils se transforment en Adela c'est-à-dire en chasseurs. On leur consacre essentiellement de petites statuettes de bois, mâle et femelle, représentant les deux pôles imaginaires de leur âme. Associées à un petit trône de bois à cinq pieds, elles sont invitées à s'y asseoir afin de se recharger d'une énergie spirituelle dont elles sont friandes.

- À ceux qui ont succombé à une agression magique perpétrée au moyen de charmes liés à la puissance des plantes, on consacre une petite motte de terre éventuellement garnie de cauris sous laquelle ont été placées des feuilles.

- Ceux dont on suppose que le décès a été directement décrété d'en haut sont assimilés à une sorte de vodu Da (qui règne dans l'espace intermédiaire entre le monde visible et l'au-delà) et leur case comporte essentiellement des figurations de ce vodu Da ainsi qu'un couple de poteries remplies d'eau, substance originaire du ciel.

Dans certaines régions, comme en pays anlo, ce principe de classification en trois des "mauvais morts" se reflète dans les fréquents regroupements, à l'intérieur d'une même pièce, des sanctuaires de Da, Adela et Agè. Outre les poteries de Da sur une estrade, d'autres statuettes sont entreposées sur une même étagère ou sur deux étagères voisines:

- Des couples de statuettes d'Adela, portant un fusil sur l'épaule ou un fusil miniature.

- Des couples de statuettes d'Agè (maître des esprits de la brousse et de la forêt ainsi que des plantes et des activités magiques), n'ayant qu'un seul bras et une seule jambe (le gauche) en référence aux arbres qui sont constitués d'un seul tronc enraciné en terre.

- Les couples de statuettes d'Adela et d'Agè sont des symboles de la divinité de la magie. À côté, l'on trouve également des statuettes pour les âmes des victimes de pratiques magiques ou des pièges de la brousse. Ces dernières sont des couples de statuettes ordinaires, à deux bras et à deux jambes, mais elles ne portent pas de fusil. Elles sont appelées Avlé.

- Il existe également des statuettes n'ayant qu'une jambe, un bras et un œil: elles se rapportent à Dente, très ancienne divinité, détentrice de pouvoirs magiques provenant des plantes. Dente dispensait également des oracles très réputés.

Enfin, il faut noter que dans quelques cantons, la case sacrée n'accueille pas de statuettes. C'est le cas dans les cantons de Dzolo et de Vogan par exemple.

Pour ce qui est de la divination, l'Evhé considère qu'elle lui permet accessoirement d'être informé de ce qui se passe dans le monde hors de portée de ses sens. Elle complète ainsi sa connaissance de l'état présent de l'au-delà, depuis lequel tout arrive, par des connaissances de l'état présent du monde visible. En revanche, on ne compte pas sur la divination pour révéler l'avenir.

S'en remettre uniquement aux divinités pour amorcer une gestation d'événements meilleurs ne suffit pas non plus à donner entière satisfaction aux hommes. C'est pourquoi ils fabriquent et manipulent concurremment des puissances leur permettant d'être protégés de nombreux sorts ou de diriger plutôt ceux-ci sur des ennemis.

Ces pratiques magiques s'appuient sur des compositions matérielles qui ont pour but de jeter, détourner ou se protéger d'un mauvais sort. Ce sont précisément des compositions de ce genre que les premiers voyageurs portugais n'hésitèrent pas à désigner d'emblée comme "feitissos", terme dont la traduction par "fétiche" fut par la suite abusivement utilisée par de nombreux missionnaires et théoriciens. Chez les Evhé, on ne rend jamais un culte à un fétiche, mais on "fait fétiche" en s'appuyant avant tout sur les vertus magiques des plantes.

Certaines statues, installées près du portail d'une enceinte publique ou privée, ont moins vocation de filtrer les entrées que de communiquer prières et offrandes à des esprits qu'il ne convient pas d'y introduire. Cependant, en permettant de satisfaire de l'extérieur toutes sortes d'esprits errants, elles remplissent évidemment aussi une fonction de protection.

Elles s'inscrivent dans ce vaste panthéon qui s'articule autour de Fa, conseiller du royaume tant sur le plan politique, social, culturel que religieux et porte-parole de tous les dieux.

Elles ont un rôle de sentinelle: elles relèvent de la magie apotropaïque. Elles protègent un village, un quartier, un lignage, une société secrète, une famille ou un individu. Elles sont chargées d'écarter les dangers venus de l'extérieur mais également tout motif de discorde, de division ou de litige à l'intérieur d'un groupe. Elles sont donc à la fois gardiennes de l'ordre et garant de l'harmonie.

En tant que divinités tutélaires et ancestrales, ayant séjourné au pays des ombres, elles peuvent aussi servir d'intermédiaire entre les vivants et les morts d'une même famille ou éloigner les revenants. Comme l'a écrit Malraux: "le vaudou implique la familiarité quotidienne avec le surnaturel".

Xavière LERAY

Bibliographie sur les Evhé:

- Albert de Surgy, "Le système religieux des Evhé", Ed. L'Harmattan, Coll. Connaissance des hommes, 1988.

- Albert de Surgy, "La géomancie et le culte d'Afa chez les Evhé du littoral", Publications orientalistes de France.

- C. Rivière, "Anthropologie religieuse des Evé du Togo".

- C. Rivière, "Union et procréation en Afrique, rites de la vie chez les Evé du Togo", Ed. L'Harmattan, 1990.

- A.B. Ellis, "The Ewe-speaking peoples of the slave coast of West Africa", Anthropological publications, 1966.

- Actes du colloque international sur les civilisations Aja-Ewé", Cotonou, 1-5/12/1977, Université nationale du Bénin, Faculté des Lettres et Sciences Humaines, département d'histoire et d'archéologie.

- "Sociologie des sociétés orales d'Afrique noire, les Evé du sud Togo, Paris Mouton & Co, La Haye, 1969.

- Encyclopédie nationale du Togo, chapitre "Coutumes et traditions".

 

 

 

 

 

Ewe

Location: Coastal Ghana and Togo Population: Est 1.5 million

Arts:

The Ewe occupy parts of both Ghana and Togo, separated by the Volta River, and the arts and rituals of these groups are quite different. The Ewe who live in Ghana use small carved wooden dolls for fertility purposes, similar to those of their larger neighbors, the Asante. They use pairs of small figures representing twins in a similar fashion to those of the Yoruba. They also weave remarkably complex textiles which rival the famed Kente cloths of the Asante. Across the river in Togo, the Ewe have been more influenced by cultures like the Fon who practice "Vodun," and their carvings, as well as their use, reflect this. The total output of the Ewe, regardless of location, is limited to these few forms, most of which could have possibly been borrowed from neighbors. The small carvings and textiles thus represent almost everything which might be encountered on the western market.

The face and body form of small Ewe statuette is quite distinctive, with cavities used for eyes and mouths. There is little in the way of details or decoration, although sometimes the hairdos may be ridged and blackened by the application of heat. The ones that come in pairs are carved to represent the death of twins, a concept borrowed from the Yoruba of Nigeria. Individual figures, which all look much alike, and are usually under 10 inches in height, might be kept under the pillows of young women to insure fertility. Some scholars believe they are merely dolls produced for children to play with. In the Ewe villages of Togo, small carvings are bought at market from known artists and then empowered by a Vodun priest or diviner. A variety of maladies and personal problems might be addressed in these rituals, with the statue as the intermediary. The original carvings can be rendered practically unrecognizeable after all the libations and magical attachments added by diviner.

In addition to the ubiquitous small sculptures, the Ewe weave glorious and complex textiles, known as "keta," which are made of long cotton strips that are then sewn together. Though they are similar to the Kente of the Asante, there are distinguishing characteristics which can be discerned by experts. There are those who think the beauty of the keta exceeds that of the kente, and undoubtedly the subject still arises as the two cultures mingle together in Ghana today.

History:

The Ewe can be traced back to the region of "Ketu," which was Yoruba territory during the 14th century, in what is now the Republic of Benin. The aggressive Yourba eventually pushed the Ewe into a westward migration, and they ended up roughly where they are today, mostly in Ghana and Togo. Though the majority of cultures in this region choose leaders based on their mother's lineage, the Ewe appoint chief and attendants using male ancestors as their guides.



 









 


More pieces have not been photographed and put in this WWW page, due to a lack of time:

This document was updated most recently 2014-06


Feel free to contact me for additional information and appraisals: pnieuwen@vub.ac.be


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Keywords in other languages for this page:

Afrika, Afrikaans, Afrikaanse, antropologie, antropologisch, beeld, beelden, beeldhouwkunst, beeldhouwwerk, beeldhouwwerken, boek, boeken, caoline, clan, clans, Congo, Congolees, etnisch, etnische, ethnisch, etnische, etnografie, etnografisch, etnografische, ethnografie, ethnografisch, ethnografische, hoed, hoeden, hout, houten, houtsnijwerk, kleur, kleuren, Kongo, kunst, kunsten, kunstenaar, kunstenaars, masker, maskers, neger, negers, negerkunst, pigment, pigmenten, pluim, pluimen, pop, poppen, primitief, primitieve, raffia, rafia, sculptuur, sculpturen, speelgoed, stam, stammen, tekstiel, textiel, totem, totems, tribaal, veer, veiling, veilingen, veren, verf, geverfd, vezels, vruchtbaarheid, zaire

Africaines, Afrique, art premier, arts premiers, congolais, congolaise, fecondite, fetiche, fibres, geometrie, grenier, livre, livre, metiers, masque, masques, negre, negres, patine, poupee, poupees, robe, style brut, teintures, tribale,

Afrikanisch, Afrikanische kunst, Holzplastik, Schwarzafrika

bambola della fertilità, caolino, conchiglie, femminile, legno, maschera, metallo, patina, pelo, pigmenti, perline, fibre vegetali, piume, statua


This page can be found online at http://www.vub.ac.be/BIBLIO/nieuwenhuysen/african-art/
The Google PageRank of the whole WWW site was 4 in 2010.

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