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HOME : African & Tribal Art : African Sculptures : Tabwa Wooden Panel Depicting the Face of the Virgin Mary
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Tabwa Wooden Panel Depicting the Face of the Virgin Mary - PF.4818
Origin: Southeastern Congo
Circa: 1870 AD to 1920 AD
Dimensions: 18.5" (47.0cm) high x 10.125" (25.7cm) wide
Collection: African
Medium: Wood and Paint

Location: United States
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This sculpture represents a fascinating example of Christian influence on the art of Africa. Around 1870 the region around Lake Tanganyika was claimed by Catholic missionaries who were later to create a Catholic 'kingdom' at Mpala. For some Tabwa artists this meant a dramatic shift of emphasis; from the polytheistic representation of ancestral spirits, to the depiction of a mystical being in human form. The artist who made this lovely portrait of the Virgin Mary may have seen similar images brought by the priests. Or perhaps he used the time honored method of seeing the face in a dream. Distinctly African elements are seen in the hair arrangement and the scarification. However, paint was a European product, and its use appropriate for images of a Western religion. The radiating diagonal bands shooting from the face are like rays of holy light seen around the heads of medieval saints. This work of art is an expression of deep piety, as genuine and true as any icon of the West. - (PF.4818)


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