Product was successfully added to your shopping cart.

20th C. African Hemba Wood Ancestor Figure

Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Hemba peoples, ca. mid 20th century CE. A tall, hand-carved wooden ancestor figure, carved to represent both an individual and an ideal. The figure has both male and female characteristics, a common duality expressed in Hemba and nearby cultures' sculpture, the outward manifestation of their matrilineal culture and the role that male ancestors play as guardians. It stands on wide feet, carved in relief as part of an integrated round base. The short legs are bowed outward around a prominent phallus. Above that, the figure holds its swollen, pregnant stomach with both hands; this indicates that the ancestor is embracing its future descendants. The head is on a tall neck, janiform in style, with a bearded face with serenely-closed eyes on one side and a mask or shield with a complex geometric motif on the other side. Size: 5.95" W x 22.7" H (15.1 cm x 57.7 cm)

During the period of Belgian colonialism, figures like this one and similar others made by neighboring tribes became subtle symbols of resistance, depicting a vision of the body and the afterlife that was transgressive to the colonizers.

Condition: Surface cracks and wear commensurate with age. No insect damage (as many of these figures have). One small loss to the edge of the base but the figure stands easily on its own.

Provenance: private Eason Eige collection, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA

All items legal to buy/sell under U.S. Statute covering cultural patrimony Code 2600, CHAPTER 14, and are guaranteed to be as described or your money back.

A Certificate of Authenticity will accompany all purchases

We ship worldwide and handle all shipping in-house for your convenience.

guaranteed authenticity

in-house shipping

knowledge & experience