Congo figure

wooden statue of a woman carrying a small child

This late 19th century figure is from Portuguese Congo (now called Cabinda, an enclave of Angola). It shows a high status woman, possibly the mother of a chief.

Africans still sculpt wooden figures for many different reasons. They were commonly made to commemorate important ancestors or for shrines devoted to spirits.

Most portray images of ideal beauty, because even a spirit considered ugly had to be pleased by giving it the 'body' of a beautiful and cultured person. Individuals as well as 'priests' use them to communicate with the spiritual world.

It is on display in the 'Life in West Africa' section of the museum.

  • Portuguese Congo, 1900
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