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Ancestor Figure

20 1/2" high

Circa 19th Century

Hemba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Africa


A nude male figure carved of wood, raised eyebrows and oval eyes with a beaded motif for a beard. The tubular neck and hunched shoulders lead to arms which are at the sides of the figure. The blunt hands touch each side of the waist and the abdomen is bulbous with a protruding navel. The knees are slightly bent and the feet are flat, resting on an oval base. There are some losses in the facial, temple and coiffure areas.

Among the Hemba, ancestor effigies are called Singiti. These figures were hidden within the family compound in a separate shrine. In ancestral rites, the sculptures were the focus of invocations recalling heroic deeds of the ancestor. The pose of this figure may reflect wisdom and interior calm; the coiffure signifies the directions and crossroads where spirits gather. The swelling of the stomach has associations with lineage continuity, but in general, such figures embody intelligence, strength, energy and fertility.


Hemba, Hemba ancestor figure, ancestor figure, Democratic Republic of the Congo, African art, African artifacts, African sculpture


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