Africa Direct
Africa Direct

Hemba Janus Couple Congo African Art

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Title Hemba Janus Couple Congo African Art
Type of Object Carving, Figure, Statue, Sculpture
Country of Origin Democratic Republic of Congo
People Hemba Luba
Materials wood
Approximate Age 20th century
Height (in) 4.5
Width (in) 6.5
Depth (in) 5.25
Dimensions Height: 4.5 Inches
Width: 6.5 Inches
Depth: 5.25 Inches
Overall Condition Good. 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 Left arm repair, chips to base

Additional Information: The Hemba have produced some of the finest carvings to come out of West Africa. Their art has been heavily influenced by their larger and more famous neighbors, the Luba. In fact, in the last quarter of a century many "Luba" masterpieces have had to be reclassified as Hemba, though there continues to be confusion and extensive scholarly debate over individual pieces. Generalizations are always risky, but it can be said with relative certainty that male statues are more common among the Hemba than among the Luba, whose primary artisitic thrust has been a respectful portrayal of the female form. The types of carvings that the Hemba produce also parallel those of the Luba, and includes major statues dedicated to important ancestors, and a multitude of small but stunning pieces like stools, neckrests and staffs. Both groups produce relatively few masks, with the most familiar Hemba mask being the monkey-faced "soko."

The Luba excel at the veneration of feminine beauty and motherhood, and much of their skillfully crafted artworks, like this exquisite headrest, reflect this ideal. The history of the Luba can be traced back at least 500 years, and they have dominated much of southern part of the Congo during most of this time span. At the height of their expansion their empire stretched east all the way to Lake Tanganyika. Luba Society is still a large culture, numbering about 1,000,000, and their influence remains significant. While there are dozens of art-producing peoples of Congolese origin who have contributed significantly to the recognition of Central African art, the Luba, along with their closely related neighbors the Hemba, are debatable the most important of them all, with many masterpieces scattered throughout the world. The world's greatest museums and private collections are filled with Luba sculpture, as the beauty of some of their finest pieces transcends those of almost any other African culture. Their impact on the art world has been extraordinary.