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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Kongo, Yombe : Yombe Ivory Sculpture of a Woman
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Yombe Ivory Sculpture of a Woman - PF.3279
Origin: Northwestern Congo
Circa: 19 th Century AD to 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 6.375" (16.2cm) high x 1.5" (3.8cm) wide
Collection: African
Medium: Ivory

Location: United States
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This delicate and beautiful sculpture depicts a woman carrying a basket on her head. Carved of precious ivory, the small sculpture radiates with aesthetic beauty and charm. In Yombe culture, ivory was frequently used to connote chiefly or royal authority. Moreover, the depiction of female/maternity figure called phemba was extremely important--phemba was considered to be powerful. This delicate ivory figurine, then, must have been someone of significance, possessing both attributes. The smooth texture of the ivory accentuates the curves of her body, especially her shoulders, breasts, and slightly protruding belly. Her intricate face is realistically depicted, with the fleshiness of the lips and the delicate shape of the eyes emphasized. The sides of the belly are decorated with scarification, and a long skirt drapes down to her ankles. Despite her beauty, the figure stands in a humble position, carrying a basket as any woman of Yombe tribe would do. Such humbleness of the figure makes the sculpture more precious--the royal status and power of fertility not flaunted but contained in self-assurance and inner- strengh. Her right arm raised to hold the basket and her left hand gently resting on the waist of her skirt, her inner peace and beauty comes through. Though small in scale, the sculpture's elegance and beauty strike the viewers in a remarkable way. - (PF.3279)


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