An African Wood-carving

By: E. H.

Originally Published in 1933

View PDF

Two wooden figurines of different sizes, both with square beards
Plate VI — African Wood-Carvings from the Lower Congo
Museum Object Numbers: 32-39-1
Image Number: 772

AN addition to the African Collection has been made through the gift by Mrs. William Godfrey of the fetish figure shown at the left in Plate VI. The figure, which is fifty-eight centimeters high, seems to belong to a large group of figures peculiar to both the Cataract District and the Stanley Pool Region of the Lower Congo. Also on exhibition in the African section is a figure (shown at the right in Plate VI) identified as coming from either the Basundi, in the Cataracts District, or from the Bateke, in the Stanley Pool Region, and the similarity in type of these two figures is evident. The Annales du Musée du Congo, Brussels, figures a series of carvings from a variety of tribes within both regions, among which the newly acquired figure seems to take its place. As far as the general style is concerned, both figures seem to be of Bateke origin or at least of Bateke inspiration. However, the attribution of a definite tribal type to a definite tribe is problematical, since within a single tribe can be found figures possessing divergent elements (as for example, the use of the pointed headdress and the rounded headdress among the Bateke, or the use of the pointed and of the trapezoidal heard at Leopoldville, Stanley Pool, as shown in several carvings in the Congo Museum publication).

Many of the figures, including the two now in the Museum, have an opening in the abdomen, made to receive ‘medicine,’ without which the figure had no magical power. The new figure bears on its head a mass of resinous substance in which are embedded two cowrie shells. Similar material is found on the bodies of other figures from the Lower Congo and bears a magical significance. The significance of the iron ring with a small work knife and a typical Congo bell suspended from it is unknown.

E. H.

Cite This Article

H., E.. "An African Wood-carving." Museum Bulletin IV, no. 3 (April, 1933): 70-71. Accessed July 17, 2024.

This digitized article is presented here as a historical reference and may not reflect the current views of the Penn Museum.

Report problems and issues to