Short stick with a dark shiny patina, topped by a standing, male figure, wearing a European-style suit and brimmed hat, carrying a small box in his hands; followed by a standing female figure, unclothed, carrying a child on her back. Below are smaller figures, on either side respectively: a keeling figure, a turtle, and a bird; a brid, a turtle, a ram's horn and an ornamental motif, possibly a cross.
Artist Unknown, African, Kongo peoples Democratic Republic of the Congo
Among the Kongo peoples, carved staffs (often--unlike here-- topped by ivory carvings) conveyed the ruler's political and spiritual powers and responsibilities. At the height of the Kongo kingdom, rulers used staffs known as "mvwala" that drew on the power of the earth and the ancestors to aid them in governing. In the 19th and 20th centuries, staffs were being produced for a much wider audience, including European traders and colonial officials. Simultaneously, the iconography of the staffs is adapted to include foreign motifs, such as the European-style formal attire worn by the male figure on top of this staff.
Gift of Margaret H. and Albert J. Coudron
Saturday, August 13, 2022
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