A BEMBE MATERNITE FIGURE

A fine Babembe mother and child

Congo Brazzaville, Africa

Collected by Mission Rédemptoristes Belges, 1890-1910

Wood, 25 cm

The Bembe people believe that small wooden anthropomorphic figures are a representation of themselves in both form and spirit. Anyone with the financial means, usually chiefs and successful hunters, can commission an artist to carve a portrait figure depicting the individual as they wish to be remembered today and after their death. The figures highlight the continuity between ancestors and living relatives, they demonstrate the important role ancestors are believed to play in ensuring the fertility and protection of the family and community.

This Bembe mother and child figure is associated with maternity groups and fertility rites, and therefore enhance fertility. The Bembe is a matrilineal society, meaning descent follows the mother’s line rather than the father’s as in Western societies, so mother figures are important.

Price on request.