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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Hemba, Luba, Shankadi : African Art / Shankadi Ivory Figure in the Form of a Woman
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African Art / Shankadi Ivory Figure in the Form of a Woman - PF.2608
Origin: Southeastern Congo
Circa: 19th th Century AD to 20th th Century AD
Dimensions: 6.25" (15.9cm) high x 1.75" (4.4cm) wide
Catalogue: V10
Collection: African
Medium: Ivory

Location: United States
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The Shankadi are a subgroup of the Luba tribe whose art is easily recognized by their characteristic tiered pagoda hairstyle. Luba ivory pendants represent ancestral spirits. As such, they belong to a broad category of Luba sculpture called 'Mikisi Mihasi' (Colle, 1913). The miniature figures represent portraits, or at least a likeness, and are named and honored in the memory of certain revered ancestors. Sculpted from ivory, as well as bone and horn, these delicate diminutive figures are suspended from bandoliers together with other objects, including amulets, beads and horns. The bandoliers are worn diagonally across the torso or may be attached to the arm. Devotees anoint the figures with oil in homage to the ancestors. Such treatments, together with regular handling and contact with the human body, give the figures a smooth lustrous surface and a rich, caramel color ranging from yellowish brown to auburn. The figures are sometimes attached to scepters carried by chiefs.

The pendant emphasizes head and torso to the total exclusion of legs. Large demure eyes dominate the head, which inclines along the natural curve of the ivory. The artist's careful attention to detail is evident in the description of the coiffure and scarification. Two sets of incised lines create raised swellings on the figure's abdomen, identifiable as 'milalo'. All Luba scarifications are named and each serves a particular purpose. 'Milalo' are considered to be particularly erotic and beautiful, and in the past all women were expected to have these marks of femininity and Luba social identity (Nooter, 1991).
- (PF.2608)


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