The Cleveland Museum of Art

Collection Online as of April 25, 2018

Female Bowl-Bearing Figure, late 1800s-early 1900s

wood, glass beads, brass, iron, Overall: 40.8 x 16.1 x 27.3 cm (16 1/16 x 6 5/16 x 10 11/16 in.). René and Odette Delenne Collection, Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund 2010.454

Filled with white chalk-a symbol of the moon, purity, renewal, and the spirit world-this bowl-bearing figure functioned as an oracle for a royal diviner who used it to reveal the origin of problems brought to his attention. The diviner would dispense to his patient a mixture of medicinal substances and chalk from the bowl. The female figure was typically identified as the wife of the diviner's possessing spirit, thus expressing the belief that women were the most powerful spirit containers in both life and art. In fact, the diviner's actual wife often acted as an intermediary in the consultation. The sculpture also served to protect and heal the village as a whole.

The Cleveland Museum of Art (10/27/2013 - 02/09/2014); "Fragments of the Invisible: Delenne Collection of Congo Sculpture"

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