Pende maternity figure


A wooden figure of a female with beautiful patina. The head is turned slightly and has a coiffure in the form of a cap of hair with a spike to the top. The face has small elongated eyes, short nose and fleshy lips to the mouth. The body is stocky with prominent breasts, each with a scarification mark above. The right arm is bent at the elbow with the hand resting on the stomach. The left arm is cradling an infant wearing a similar hairstyle to the mother.

Figures of females holding children seem to have a number of uses among the Pende people. Figures such as this could be kept in shrines where they were supplicated to bring about pregnancy and the safe birth of a healthy child. Other examples are known that, together with the figure of a male, acted as guardians of such places as the treasury of a chief. Large scale carvings, known as kishikishi, can be found on the top of ritual houses, known as kibulu, where the great chiefs lived. These figures acted not only as guardians of the chief living within, but also acted as a marker for their homes. The figures not only acted as guardians of the chief themselves, but also of their power. The Pende are matrilineal people who hold women in high regard.  

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Data sheet

Presumed dating
Circa 1950
34 cm
Ethnic group
Pende / Bapende
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Tribal art collection Belgium

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