Democratic Republic of the Congo
Wood and mother-of-pearl
H: 16.0 cm, W: 6.0 cm, D: 4.3 cm (H: 6.3 in, W: 2.4 in, D: 1.7 in)
The Jerome L. Joss Collection. X87.1467
The sculptural traditions of the Bembe, Kongo, and Yombe peoples are associated with protection and spiritual intervention. These Bembe figures served to hold an ancestor’s breath-collected before death, sealed in resin, and inserted into an orifice within the sculpture. As a result, such figures were considered living presences, embodying the life force of the ancestors and offering beneficence to their surviving descendants. Because of their significance, the resin implants were usually removed prior to sale or relinquishment of the sculptures.
Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives.