Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Songye people, late 19th-early 20th century
wood, brass, animal hair, antelope tusk, Overall: 34.8 x 6.2 x 14.5 cm (13 11/16 x 2 7/16 x 5 11/16 in.). René and Odette Delenne Collection, Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund 2010.452
Songye figures were used as devices for protection, healing, or therapy. The value of such objects resided in magical substances most commonly concealed in the abdominal cavity or in a horn set into the skull. The mixture of ingredients was meant to solicit the powers of the spirit world. Both the sculpture's height and its gender suggest that it was owned and used by an individual, possibly even a woman. Although some have attributed its particular style-characterized by geometric volumes and an almost cubistic appearance-to a subgroup living along the Sankuru River, the regional attribution of any figure on stylistic grounds is always tentative given the itinerant nature of artists.
The Cleveland Museum of Art (10/27/2013 - 02/09/2014); "Fragments of the Invisible: Delenne Collection of Congo Sculpture"
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