Commemorative Ancestor Statue of a Chief (Singiti), Hemba People, DRC
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The Hemba people are a Bantu ethnic group in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In the 1800s, under the direction of Niembo and his son, Myhiya, the Hemba moved into their current location along the Congo River. The Luba unsuccessfully tried to incorporate them into their growing kingdom. However, the Luba did succeed in greatly influencing their artistic styles in ancestral figures, spirits, human faces, and ceremonial masks. The art of the Hemba is mainly known for the ancestor's figures, the Singita, symbols of power who exude wonderful serenity and natural authority. These statues were not only to keep the memory of their great chiefs alive but also to justify the present authority and power of the clan chief; the latter had absolute jurisdiction over clan members and was in charge of several ancestor figures he kept in his funerary hut.
Singiti were used in all Hemba ceremonies and court decisions. Although every figure is the portrait of a specific person, the artist portrays generalized, not particular, individual traits. The figure expresses equilibrium, symmetry and refinement. The sculptural beauty reveals the highest moral qualities. The serenely closed eyes and the rounded face reflects the ancestor's interior calm. The typical lobed hairdo evokes the four directions of the universe and the crossroad where spirits assemble. Hands-on, each side of the swelling belly indicate the ancestor embracing and watching over descendants. The statue has a charming use and wears a patina.
Dimensions : 35,8cm x 11,2cm x 15cm