This extraordinary statue comes from the Kuyu people who live between the Sangha and upper Ogowe Rivers, D.R.Congo.
Very large and heavy terracotta statue, covered with shiny and vivid colors, made around the early 20th century - in our family collection since 1950.
This wonderful figure will hold a prominent place in any Tribal Art collection.
We also have 2 more Kuyu terracotta statues from the same period. Please ask us for further details.
The ethnic group of Kuyu is found on the banks of the Kuyu River in the northwest of the People's Republic of the Congo. In earlier days, the Kuyu were divided into two totemic clans: in the west, the panther clan, and in the east, the serpent clan. A secret male society, ottote, played an important political role in the nomination of chiefs. The initiation of young people would end with the display of the serpent-god, Ebongo, represented in the form of a head. The dances that accompanied the ceremony represented the successive stages of creation. The panther clan had a drum as its emblem; the serpent clan used sculpted heads painted in vivid colors, perched atop sticks that the handler, hidden under a long gown, held above his head. After the serpent had been displayed, sculpted figures that represented the primordial couple would appear: joku, the father, and Ebotita, the mother.
Stylistically similar, both heads and complete figures feature bouquets of feathers on top of the heads-or they feature a large sculpted lizard whose tail hangs down the back of the head. Others have a quality imitating snakeskin. Also found are hairdos that divide into two loops on either side of a parted center, a style women wore in earlier times-probably an allusion to a female ancestor. White, the color of death, the face has colored scarifications or geometric motifs such as small dots or incised lines on the forehead, checks, and temples. The eyes are narrow, the ears small. The open mouth allows the fine, sharp teeth to be visible. The massive bodies of the figures are also scarified; arms may either be attached to or separated from the body, the feet are barely indicated.
Today, the creation myth seems to have been forgotten, but the hibe-hibe dances continue. Imported colors are more violent than native ones, and the style has rapidly degenerated, but the spinning of the dancers imitating the serpent still remains most impressive.
K. Nicklin, "Kuyu Sculpture at the Powell-Cotton Museum," in African Arts, XVII, 1, 1983. J.-L. Paudrat, in M. Huet, The Dance, Art, and Ritual of Africa (New York: Pantheon, 1978). Upper Sangha, Ubangi, Ucle (Central African Republic, Zaire)
Size: 14,6'' height - 2,4 pounds heavy.
Nicklin, K. "Kuyu Sculpture at the Powell-Cotton Museum", in African Arts, XVII, 1. 1983.
Kerchache, J (ed.)., Art of Africa, 1988