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HOME : African & Tribal Art : African Stools : Hemba Wooden Chair
Hemba Wooden Chair - CK.0092
Origin: Democratic Republic of Congo
Circa: 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 33" (83.8cm) high x 10.625" (27.0cm) wide
Collection: African
Medium: Wood

$9,000.00
Location: United States
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Description
The Hemba were long believed to be contiguous with the Luba, and only achieved sociocultural independence in the eyes of western African art history in the 1970s. The Luba and the Hemba are socioculturally and artistically similar in many respects. However, artistic production can be differentiated in terms of the delicacy (enthusiasts would describe it as “refinement”) of the carving. They are known for their decoration of secular and utilitarian objects, notably caryatid stools, headrests and instruments; masks are highly distinctive – wither monkey masks, or perfectly symmetrical plain masks with slit eyes that are reminiscent of Lega pieces – although their social role is currently unclear. In general terms, figure features tend to be sharper, with more peripheral detailing (such as hair and beards) and a subtle geometric quality. One of the very few indigenous artists known specifically to western art historians was a member of the Hemba group; the “Master of Buli” is famous for his unique rendering of human features in an elongated, somewhat simian manner. Hemba figures – singiti – usually represent male ancestors, naked figures standing on circular bases, with elongated torsos, hands resting on the stomach (usually protuberant, perhaps representing wealth or prosperity), beards, and coiffure drawn back and formed into the shape of a cross. Warrior figures (carrying weapons) confer power, and are usually kept by the Fuma Mwalo; they usually have an encrusted patina as the blood of animals (usually chickens) is poured over them during ceremonies to recall the glories of their lives. The Fuma Mwalo also keeps small Janus figures known as kabejas, which are made magical by the addition of substances to small depressions in their heads; their role is to protect the village, and also receive libations to ensure they do so adequately.

This anthropomorphic style is part figure, part furniture. The seat rests upon three legs, the front two of which have been carved with human type feet, as if the seat is resting upon the bent knees of the figure. The flattened back of the chair takes the place of the man's torso. From the top, emerges the head carved in the characteristic Hemba style with almond-shaped eyes and a thin beard highlighting his chin. - (CK.0092)

 

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