Lot: 230

Squatting male figure

D. R. Congo, Bembe

Provenance Size Starting price / estimated price
Gerard Wahl Boyer, Paris, France
Stephane Grusenmeyer, Brussels, Belgium
H: 5.3 inch 8000 EUR / 15000 EUR

wood, white porcelain inlay, base

Particularly finely carved figure with the typical extensive scarification patterns on the belly and chest.

The Bembe make use of two main types of figures: power figures used by diviners to cure ailments and ancestral figures, used to represent and honour deceased community leaders.

The Bembe believe that small wooden anthropomorphic figures are a representation of themselves and anyone with the financial means (usually chiefs and successful hunters) can commission the carving of a figure. The carved figure is generally called "nkumba" by the Bembe.

Upon the death of a figure's owner, pieces of the individual's corpse are mixed with medicines and magic substances ("bilongo"). This mixture is then inserted into a small carved hole near the rectum of the figure. By inserting the mixture and sealing the hole with a wooden plug and / or cloth wrapping, the "nkumba" figure receives the spirit of the ancestor and is thus transformed into a "nkiteki" ancestor figure (pl. "biteki", in some sources also called "mukuya").