Title Tabwa Female Figure Scarified Body Congo African Art 28 Inch
Type of Object Carving, Figure, Statue, Sculpture
Country of Origin Democratic Republic of the Congo
Approximate Age Mid 20th century
Height (in) 12
Width (in) 3
Depth (in) 3
Other Dimensions 22 inch outer diameter, 10 inch length
Overall Condition Good to Fair. Most of our pieces have spent decades on at
least two continents, and have been treasured by several owners. Small
splits, scrapes and cracks are a normal part of their patina attesting to their
age and extensive use. We examine each piece carefully when we receive it and
report any damage we find in our listings. Please look carefully at the
pictures which may also reveal condition and damage.
Damage/Repair Bug damage and crack.
Additional Information:T Female figure with scarification patterns on face
and torso. A hole at the top of the head probably once housed a horn. The used
surface adds another dimension to the ritual importance of this figure among
The Tabwa are a tiny tribe in the Upper River Region of the Democratic
Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire. Their carvings are ancestor figures, and
they usually stand on a circular base with slightly bent knees and hands
resting on their abdomen. Sometimes the hairstyle is a George Washington queue.
On this figure the like on this example the coiffure is a cap like with
The Tabwa number more than 200, 000 . Tabwa art has only recently come to be
identified as a separate style often confused with the sculpture of their
neighbors or others who took Tabwa identity. Chiefs were not powerful and local
lineage heads exercised much authority. It was the lineage heads who kept small
figures representing honored ancestors known as Mipasi on small shrines that
they controlled. Tabwa figural sculptures represent ancestors who were to
assist in daily activities and during the hunt. Tabwa art is both a symbol and
an aesthetic statement as the figures are often elaborately scarified in a
fashion known among them until the middle of the twentieth century. The
distinctive facial scarification consisting of a number of lines along the
sides of the face and along the forehead and abdomen were the means whereby
Tabwa identified themselves to localities and social status. They are also a
high form of body art or ornamentation. Elaborate and attractive patterns and
designs were worked into the skin according to the Tabwa concept of ‘kulemba’
that reflect aesthetics, social membership and the abstract idea of order upon
the chaos of nature. It demonstrates that a person becomes a complete adult
when they are properly inscribed with the appropriate scars. These patterns and
designs are collectively known as ‘vindala’ and will represent one’s
advancement through life and within Tabwa society. Distinctive hairstyles among
Tabwa men reflect status or membership in a hunter’s cult known as ‘buyange’,
that required great efforts to braid, tie and decorate.
Maurer E.M. , A.F. Roberts, TABWA THE RISING OF NEW MOON, 1985
Cornet, Joseph, A SURVEY OF ZAIREAN ART.
All content, including pictures, Copyright Africa Direct Inc., 2021
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