Africa Direct
Africa Direct

Nyamwezi Male Beaded Figure | Tanzania | African Art

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Type of Object Carving, Figure, Statue, Sculpture
Country of Origin Tanzania
People Nyamwezi
Materials Wood, glass
Approximate Age 20th century
Height (in) 13.5 (on base)
Width (in) 5.5 (on base)
Depth (in) 4.5 (on base)
Dimensions Figure: 12.25 H, 4 W, 2.5 D
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 Cracks, splits, worn beads, and loose arms, see photos for details.

Additional Information:

These figures are used by water diviners according to Jean-Baptist Bacquart (1998: 223). Further research is to be conducted to determine the use and function of these figures also referred as staff (see Kerchache, Jacques, and Al., 1988, p. 468). The Nyamwezi are known for their carving that is at best roughly executed and relatively sparsely described in the literature of East African art. However there are a number of uses given to sculpted figures among the Nyamwezi including witchcraft, magic and social entertainment. Among the Nyamwezi powerful forces known as ‘bulogi’ are organized with cults centered around certain spirits. This includes the manipulation of forces and the developments of cults or spirit possession in which members of the Baswezi society are possessed or mounted by the Swezi spirit.

According to oral traditions they settled in west central Tanzania where they presently live sometime during the 1600s. Called “people of the moon” by their neighbors in Tanzania the Nyamwezi lived in large settlements and at one time in a number of kingdoms but today live in small dispersed settlements under local chiefs.

Recommended Reading:

For similar pieces, see Bacquart, Jean-Baptist, Tribal Arts of Africa, 1998, fig. a, p. 223. See also Kerchache, Jacques, and Al. Art of Africa, 1988, figs. 807-808

Abrahams, R. G. The Peoples of Greater Unyamwezi, Tanzania. International African Institute. 1967;

Iliffe, John . A Modern History of Tanganyika. Cambridge University Press. 1979