late 1800s-early 1900s
Wood, ceramic, copper alloy
Overall: 17 x 5.8 x 4.2 cm (6 11/16 x 2 5/16 x 1 5/8 in.)
René and Odette Delenne Collection, Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund 2010.429
The carvings in the figure’s abdomen reflect the custom of body scarification among the Beembe people.
Beembe figurines generally have greatly detailed anatomical and decorative features. The scarification among Beembe men and women communicated their ideas about local beauty and ethnic belonging. These figures are charged with an ancestor’s spirit through a mixture of resin and human-derived ingredients—taken from the corpse of the person they possibly portray—into a small cavity near the rectum.
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