African & Tribal Art :
Kongo, Yombe : Kongo Wooden Mvwala Chief's Staff
Kongo Wooden Mvwala Chief's Staff - PF.3900
Origin: Southwestern Congo
40" (101.6cm) high
Location: United States
The chief's staff, like the scepter, is called
"mvwala" and is an important symbol of
authority. Sometimes the staff is given to a
messenger to confirm the chief's mandate.
The female figure surmounting this staff is called
a "pfemba". The headdress with its triangle motif
around a central crown is that of a chief.
The head is a good example of Yombe realism:
inlaid eyes (now missing the glass inserts), a flat
nose, thick lips revealing filed teeth, abundant
scarification and a collar indicating a high rank in
society. The posture with one knee on the
ground is the customary position of intervention
in a discussion.
Particularly apparent in this figure is the carver's
use of descending perspective: the head, the
trunk, and the lower limbs occupy less and less
space in relation to their normal proportion. This
demonstrates the major importance given to the
head and upper portion of the body in Yombe
art, and in the general African scale of values.