Wood and colorant
Overall: 33 cm (13 in.)
Gift of Katherine C. White 1969.7
In Kongo art, the image of a mother embodies the concept of mooyo—life, spirit, vitality, and soul. The figure's facial expression, gesture, and posture convey these ideas dramatically. The mother's detached stare evokes the spiritual realm of gods and ancestors while the raised marks on her shoulders signify citizenship and social commitment. She raises her breast in a nurturing gesture. Her cross-legged position symbolically connotes both the circle of life and the lap as the seat of stability and security for the living, her child. During the lifetime of its owner, the sculpture was displayed at community meetings when the person was absent. After the person's death, the figure would be displayed on the grave—demonstrating the continuity between the living and the departed in African beliefs.
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