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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Hemba, Luba, Shankadi : African Art / Hemba Wooden Ancestor Figure
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African Art / Hemba Wooden Ancestor Figure - PF.5720
Origin: Democratic Republic of Congo
Circa: 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 16.5" (41.9cm) high
Collection: African
Medium: Wood

Location: United States
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The veneration of ancestors is an important feature of life in large Hemba families. This fine statue is a fine example. Ancestral veneration permeates African cultures. Spirits of the deceased were believed to play an active role in the daily lives of their descendents. A statue such as this once would not only serve as a beautiful memorial, but also could be used in elaborate rituals. Offerings and libation could be placed in front of it in order to influence the spirit’s favor. The masterful carving reflects the importance of the piece. The elongated face expresses an inner calm. His hair is dressed in a finely carved diadem that seemingly flows into his thin beard. The ancestor’s hands, placed on either side of his stomach, indicate that he is watching over his clan. He stands on thick, squat legs. There is a fine interplay between the angular forms of his arms, legs, and chin, and the smooth curves of his head and swelling stomach. Gazing upon this ancestor figure, we sense the power of the spirit. This is not merely a wooden sculpture, but a vessel for a soul. The deceased relative lives on, continuing to influence and guide his family. - (PF.5720)


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