Kneeling Female Figure

Bembe peoples

Not on view

This kneeling female figure, with her arms raised and her hands resting at the top of her head, was carved from a single piece of wood. Her abdomen and upper chest are enhanced with raised cicatrices. The lower part of both legs are missing and seem to have been broken off or purposefully removed long ago. The wood was originally covered with a thin layer of black pigment or dye, now faint. The shiny layer coating the surface is of recent origin.
Diminutive wood Bembe figures from the Republic of Congo are representations of ancestors, both male and female. Male figures sit or stand in conventional poses of prestige and power; they often carry objects indicative of their status, such as rifles, knives, flywhisks, or bells. Female figures, by contrast, rarely hold items in their hands, but rather stand tall, the arms extended forward. This female figure is a lovely, unusual example for its soft features and distinctive gesture of hands placed at the top of the head. The extensive cicatrices that adorn parts of her torso are, on the other hand, characteristic of Bembe sculpture.

Kneeling Female Figure, Wood, Bembe peoples

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