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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Hemba, Luba, Shankadi : Hemba Wooden Ancestral Sculpture
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Hemba Wooden Ancestral Sculpture - PF.4523
Origin: Southeastern Congo
Circa: 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 25" (63.5cm) high x 7" (17.8cm) wide
Collection: African
Medium: Wood

Location: United States
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Though most African tribes are divided into clans, the Hemba are particularly clan oriented. Each clan knows the history of its migration, conquests, alliances, and obeys certain regulations, duties, and taboos, especially related to dietary matters. A clan may compose an entire village independent of others, and share a common ancestor. The Hemba practice ancestor worship not only to keep the memory of their great chiefs alive, but also to justify the present authority and power of the chiefs of the clan. As officiant of the cult, the chief presides over a dignified ceremony where he communicates with the ancestor, recalling his brave deeds and requesting good fortune. A chicken is then sacrifices as an offering, followed by a meal of manioc flour and, of course, chicken!

The ancestor statues of the Hemba are usually male, posed in a powerful stance, beautifully symmetrical, with arms and forearms brought forward over the abdomen. This noble and proud statue of an ancestor exhibits those qualities the Hemba admired. The figure’s posture gives the impression he has just come to rest, briefly, before continuing on, like a warrior or hunter. He is very human in the superb facial detail and richly designed headdress. Yet, he possesses an otherworldly aspect, as if he has walked out of the wood he was carved from. He exudes something not of this world, which is both beautiful and mysterious. Perhaps this enigmatic quality is the very definition of a work of art.
- (PF.4523)


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