Seated Figure: Male

Dengese peoples

Not on view

The Dengese of the Democratic Republic of the Congo live to the north of the powerful Kuba kingdom. Although the Kuba eventually surpassed the Dengese chiefdoms in size, wealth, political power, abundance of art works, royal historians recall a period in the distant past when the Kuba paid tribute to a Dengese ruler. The two groups share many of the same symbols of authority, among them luxurious raffia-cloth garments, leopard skins, ceremonial weapons, and musical instruments.

Dengese political power is in the hands of the Itoci, initiated men who at great expense acquire the right to wear insignia of rank. Dengese figures depict these dignitaries, who are identified by a plaited raffia-fiber hat with a raffia-covered wooden cylinder projecting from the top. The sculptures are conceived as half-figures, and the elongated torso terminates in a semicircular base that may actually represent stylized legs. The figures achieve a fair degree of naturalism through the depiction of the broad shoulders, muscular chest, and rounded torso and arms. The elaborate coiffure and cap, neck rings, and bracelets reflect the stylistic influence of their Kuba neighbors. This is particularly evident in the figure's swelling forehead, emphasized by the shaven angular hairline, and his broad facial features. The close association between the Dengese and the Kuba is further suggested by the figure's complicated geometric scarification patterns, which are reminiscent of decorative motifs found on Kuba cut-pile cloth and intricately incised wooden objects.

Seated Figure: Male, Wood, metal staple, Dengese peoples

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