|Title||Hemba Figure Hands Bound in Back Congo African Art|
|Type of Object||Figure, carving, memorial figure|
|Country of Origin||Democratic Republic of Congo|
|Approximate Age||20th century|
|Dimensions||21.5 inches H. x 6 inches W.|
|Overall Condition||Poor. Most of our pieces have spent decades on at least two continents, and have been treasured by several owners. Small splits, scrapes and cracks are a normal part of their patina attesting to their age and extensive use. We examine each piece carefully when we receive it and report any damage we find in our listings. Please look carefully at the pictures which may also reveal condition and damage.|
|Damage/Repair||Arrested bug damage to leg, hole in head, hole and big chips in leg and base, large cracks in back of head and in shoulder, scratchets|
A well carved male figure with hands bound to the back and with a turned head. This figure comes from the Hemba. It may represent a slave or a man possessed by malevolent forces. The use and function of such figurines are unclear. This could be an illustration of evil, a didactic piece used by the diviner in the process of tracking a sorcerer or a bad spirit. The theme of this little and marvelous piece is intricate and make this piece more exciting than many large figures.
Hemba number around 80,000 and live on the right bank of the Lualaba River west of Lake Tanganyika. They have been heavily influenced by their neighbors to the south, the Luba. Elements from the Luba are still present in the socio-political organization of the Hemba. The Hemba are divided into large clans headed by a hereditary leader known as the "Fumu Mwalo," who administers justice and watches over the ancestor figures. It is only in the last quarter century that their art has been identified as distinct from that of the Luba. Thus, many masterpieces in museums and famous collections have had to be reclassified. The most common of the Hemba ancestor figures are called "singitis". These figures can be very tall, usually male and in standing position with the hands along the body or resting around the navel, elaborate coiffure commonly cruciform, elongated or round face with serene expression. They were kept in special houses or in the house of the clan leader, "Fumu Mwalo". "Fumu Mwalo" would consult these ancestor figures, and also make offerings and sacrifices to them some important decision is to be made or every time the community needs ancestors help. The warm colored patina comes as a result of extended us through offerings and touching. Singiti figures serve as intercessors between the living and the dead and as effigies of ancestor to recognize lineage heads and document title to land. Singiti figures are not strictly considered to be portraits of particular individuals. They depict rank, social status and ethnic identity through stance, hair-style and dress.The figure illustrated here is a small version of the a statue and miniatures such as this were used for individual protection. The world's greatest museums and private collections are filled with Hemba and Luba sculpture, as the beauty of some of their finest pieces transcends those of almost any other African culture. For such a small group, their impact on the art world has been extraordinary.
Recommended Reading: Francois Neyt, LA GRANDE STATUAIRE HEMBA DU ZAIRE, Louvain-La-Neuve, 1977
I have examined this piece and agree with the description.
niangi Batulukisi, PhD.