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    Description

    MBOLE, Democratic Republic of Congo
    Standing Figure

    Wood, pigment, inscribed on the reverse, 1342

    Mbole people live in autonomous villages in equatorial rain forest. Women farm and raise some livestock, while men hunt and fish. Both sexes weave. Mbole people are matrilocal, that is, a newly-married man goes to live in his wife's village.

    "Lilwa," the men's society, provides the educational, ritual, judicial, social, political and economic structure in Mbole villages. It has four levels through which a man rises from initiation to, perhaps, the top rank, "Isoya," that of religious leader. Wives of "Isoya" men are usually initiated into "Lilwa," and have considerable power.

    Figures like the present example are called "Ofika" and are kept by high-ranking "Lilwa" members. They represent men who were hanged for revealing "Lilwa" secrets or for violation of public rules against theft or some other crimes. Such figures are displayed to boys at initiation as a warning of the limits of behavior and are interpreted, but they may not appear again unless there is a crisis situation such as repeated hunting failures, conflicts between groups, or oath taking. There is some indication that they could also represent sacrificial victims or dead "Isoya" leaders, who are not buried immediately after death, but suspended from a pole scaffold in their house so that their vital force can be passed to their successor.

    "Ofika" figures typically are lean, often with dangling arms bent at the elbows in death. They have heart-shaped facial planes painted white with kaolin of the type seen in figure sculpture of many nearby groups, and done with great crispness and economy in the present figure.

    Provenance:
    From the Estate of Liz Claiborne and Arthur Ortenberg

    Read more about the Liz Claiborne and Arthur Ortenberg Collection here.


    Sotheby's African and Oceanic Art, November 15, 2000, lot 130
    Willy Mestdagh, Brussels
    Harvey Menist, Amsterdam

    Exhibited:
    African Tribal Sculpture from the Collection of Ernst and Ruth Anspach, The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, November 1967 - February 1968, number 106

    Height: 11 inches


    Condition Report*: Condition report available upon request.
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    Auction Dates
    July, 2016
    8th Friday
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