Constantine Petridis Curator of African Art
Central Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Songye people, late 19th-early 20th century
wood, glass beads, brass, copper, iron, human teeth, antelope horn, hide, animal hair, minerals,
plant fibers, Overall: 64 x 24.5 x 24 cm (25 3/16 x 9 5/8 x 9 7/16 in). René and Odette Delenne Collection, Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund 2010.451
Its visual impact and workmanship suggest that this figure was used by an extended family rather than an individual. The raffia skirt around the waist and the blue and white beads are indicators of leadership. The metal appliqué covering the face and the metal blades that hedge the headgear refer to the blacksmith, a culture hero celebrated in a Songye myth narrating the formation of the state. The metal strips on the skeletal face are said to relate to lightning, signaling the figure's role as a powerful anti-sorcerer, but the contrast between white iron and red copper symbolically alludes to the ambivalent powers of the figure.
The Cleveland Museum of Art (10/27/2013 - 02/09/2014); "Fragments of the Invisible: Delenne Collection of Congo Sculpture"
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