Béembé / Bembe Maternity Figure, Republic of Congo #33

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  • Béembé / Bembe Maternity Figure, Republic of Congo #33
  • A finely carved wooden Female Effigy, Nkiteki (Ancestor Figure), or translated as "Good Wife" with her child on her back. Featuring raised scar designs, with one inset glass eye, and one old repair of a carved shell eye. The Figure exhibits a well handled honey colored surface patina suggesting years of use.
  • The Béembé believe that the small anthropomorphic Figures in wood are a representation of themselves, both in Form and in Spirit. Anyone with the financial means, usually experienced Leaders and Hunters, can commission an artist to carve a Portrait of an individual they wish to venerate, or a Self Portrait, in the way one wants to remember today and after one's death.
  • The figures highlight the Continuity between Ancestors and Living, and demonstrate the important role that Ancestors are thought to play in ensuring the Fertility and Protection of the Family and the Community.
  • The Biteki Characters are housed with other Ancestral Characters in a Family Shelter called Nzo Bakulu. The Nzo Bakulu is guarded by an Elder of the Family to which the Characters belong.
  • The village leader, Nga-Bula, was responsible for interceding with the Ancestors. Hunting being a major activity, Ancestors were invoked through Statuettes. These Idealized Representations of Ancestors, Biteki, Kitebi or Bimbi, consecrated by the Village Sorcerer or Shaman, bore attributes of Hunters, Healers and Idealized Female Characters such as The Ancestral Mother, The Ideal Wife. Some of them, as in the Kongo Culture, were Magical Objects called Minkisi, with nails and were equipped with holes in which medicines, Bilongo, or Relics of Ancestors, were introduced.
  • Measurements: 6.69 Inch
  • Condition: Fine. Featuring raised scar designs, inset glass eyes and a well handled honey colored surface patina suggesting years of Village use. Very beautiful patina and superb scarification work.
  •  Social Organisation was based on the Matrimonial Clan, whose members could live in several villages. The family unit generally included three generations. The chief in charge of the Village, the Nga-Bula, Mediated Spiritually with the Ancestors.
  • Hunting was the main activity in Béembé Villages. Before leaving on a Hunt, the Leader would invoke the Ancestral Spirits, using as intermediaries Statuettes Kneeling in the position of a Hunter Waiting for his Prey.
  • The Béembé believed in a Creator God, Nzambi, whom they did not depict figuratively. He was the Master of the Life and Death – unless the latter was due to the act of a Sorcerer, Ndoki, who could magically “eat” the Life Force of Clan Members. The Ancestors had close ties with the Living and received offerings through the “Priest” who made appeals to Statuettes, the Kitebi or Bimbi, consecrated by the Sorcerer. These Figurines were the idealized images of the Ancestors and would often wear attributes that allowed them to be identified as Medicine Men, Idealized Female or Maternity Images, or Hunters. The Ancestor worship among the Béembé is older, though, and precedes the use of magic statues, Nkisi, by the Sorcerers.
  • Béembé Figures:
  • In terms of Artistic Practice, the Béembé have much in common with other Kongo Groups, such as the use of Nkisi figures. However, Béembé Figures are the most distinctive form of Béembé Sculpture. Béembé are reknowned for their meticulously carved Ancestral Figures rendered in Idealized Form. They display extensive geometric incisions representing scarification on their abdomens, and their eyes are inlaid with ceramic or shell shards. Some Béembé Ancestor Figures have a small cavity between their legs, into which medicinal substances, A Bilongo or "charge" were inserted; this practice endowed the figures with Protective Powers.
  • The Classic Béembé figure usually is upright with knees slightly bent, its large feet with carefully articulated toes standing on the base; the seated position occurs less frequently. Female Statuettes have a pronounced, almost oval or square shape, triangular chin, a full nose and mouth, finely sculpted ears, and hair carved in relief on or above the forehead. The hands of male sculptures’ are typically turned toward one another and are carrying implements that represent the ancestor's profession in life
  • Established on the plateaus of the People's Republic of Congo ex. Brazzaville, and not to be confused with the Bembé group north of Lake Tanganinyika, the small Babembé group, Béembé, was influenced by the neighboring Teké People's Rites and Culture, but were impacted especially by that of the Kongo Peoples. They are considered a Kongo subgroup.
  • Origin is The Republic of the Congo also known as Congo-Brazzaville, the Congo Republic or simply either Congo or The Congo.