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Huge Yombe Ngudi Memorial Statue D.R. Congo     495 $






Light-weighted wood, made around 1950, brown patina, slightly shining, wide face with elaborate headgear, the eyes inset with glass. This figure presumably was created not as a magical figure ("nkisi"), but as a memorial figure of a female ancestor, who was donated for being the female founder of the lineage. Such sculptures, called "ngudi" (mother of the lineage), used to be kept in a basket, together with further relics belonging to the kinship. Presumably such sculptures were displayed in masquerades marking big events within the village.

Fine condition with no repairs and only some traces of age.

Size: 61 cm height.

Mixed materials.

Shipping included.

History: Yombe history indicates a southward migration of the Mbenza clan from present day Gabon sometime before the 15th century. Oral and written accounts connect them with the historical Mayomba Kingdom, which flourished in the 16th century. During the 16th and 17th centuries migrations of Manyanga and then Bwende peoples arrived in the area. Both groups eventually assimilated into Yombe communities. The Kongo and Solongo expansions at the end of the 17th century forced the Yombe to withdraw from the banks of the Congo River. Although European contact was limited until the end of the 19th century, depictions of Portuguese people in Yombe art reflect 16th century Portuguese styles, indicating a moderate degree of European influence in this region at quite an early date.

Economy: due to the thick forests surrounding Yombe territory the land must be cleared through slash and burn techniques before crops can be planted. The land is usually cleared by men, leaving the task of farming to the women. Plantains, manioc, maize, beans, peanuts, and yams are among the primary crops grown. These are primarily used for local consumption, but surplus is also sold in regional markets to obtain cash. Goats, pigs, chickens, and dogs are also raised. Fishing on the Congo River and its surrounding tributaries provides an important source of dietary protein. Men are also responsible for hunting, weaving, carving, smithing, and smelting. Women create clay pots for domestic use.

Political systems: primary Yombe social divisions are based on membership in one of nine clans. All clans trace their heritage to Mbaangala who had nine daughters whose names are the same as the clan that each founded. Yombe peoples more readily affiliate with fellow clan members, and each clan has its own set of social and moral rules. Historically the Yombe recognized a supreme chief, but today there are instead localized land chiefs who act as supreme judges and maintain a great deal of religious power. Descent is traced matrilinealy and each clan has a mfumu makanda (supreme leader), who is elected by his fellow clan members based on his wealth and oratory skills.

Religion: Ngoma Bunzi is the Yombe supreme deity. He resides in Yulu, a place which is off-limits to people. He is never contacted directly. Instead, appeals are made through Nzambi a Tsi (earth spirits) and Simbi (river spirits). Shrines were also erected to remember important ancestors, and chiefs were accorded sacred powers. The waganga (healers) could be solicited to perform cures, to provide protection from harm, to bring good fortune, or on occasion to avenge harm done by a witch. The medicine of the waganga was closely tied to nkisi bundles. Larger nkisi nkonde figures were used for oath taking on the village level. Nails and similar pointed objects were driven into the figure to seal a pact between two or more individuals. Diviners commonly used hallucinogenic drugs to facilitate their communication with the spirit world.



Very rare and large ritual jar of the Bakongo people     600 $ 

We like to offer you a very unique and rare Bakongo statue with 4 faces built as a jar. 

It is made of high quality wood around 1900. It is part of the van Norten Tribal Art Collection and has been collected by the founder of the Momoyama Gallery in the 1950ies. 

The protrusion in the belly is said to contain magical elements, giving the sculpture its power.  

This jar belongs to any category of power figures (nkisi) serving for individual protection and well-being.  Most were used for fortune-telling and warding off evil spirits.

Power figures designed as a jar are a rarity.


Size: 44 cm height - weight 1,4 kg.


Shipping included.


The religious history of the Kongo is complex, thanks to the long engagement of the Kingdom of Kongo with Christianity and the flexible nature of religious concepts in general in an area without a scriptural tradition. According to historian John K. Thornton 'Central Africans have probably never agreed among themselves as to what their cosmology is' because of the presence of 'continuous revelation' by which theological ideas were formed by a 'constant stream of revelations that was not under the control of a priesthood who enforced orthodoxy, but instead was interpreted individually within a community of belief.'


Since the late nineteenth century, European and American missionaries, European, American and Kongo anthropologists and other Kongo thinkers and writers have increasingly solidified an idea of what are the foundations of what can be called traditional Kongo religion. In this conception, believers stress the importance of ancestors, as most of the inhabitants of the other world are held to have once lived in this world. Only Nzambi a Mpungu, the name for the high god, is usually held to have existed outside the world and to have created it. Other categories of the dead include bakulu or ancestors (the souls of the recently departed). In addition, there are more powerful beings who are considered as guardians of particular places, such as mountains, river courses, springs and districts, called simbi (pl. bisimbi). These beings are sometimes regarded as the souls of the long departed, the first inhabitant or eternal beings. Finally there are those who inhabit and are captured in minkisi (singular nkisi), or charms, whose operation is the closest to magic. The value of these supernatural operations is generally held to be in the intentions of the worker, rather than the other world having spirits or souls that are intrinsically good or bad. 


However, some anthropologists studying modern Kikongo speaking people point out that there are sharp regional differences not only in terminology but even such important concepts as the role of ancestors. According to Dunja Hersak, for example, the Vili and Yombe do not believe in the power of ancestors in the same degree as to those living farther south. Furthermore, she points out, following the lead of another anthropologist, John Janzen, that religious ideas and emphasis in the same sector have changed over time.


Following the conversion of Nzinga Nkuwu in 1491 most of the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Kongo converted to Christianity, though they continued their older beliefs within its fold, through syncretic practices within the Roman Catholic Church in Kongo. This syncretic form of Christianity was often contested by missionaries, and spawned one messianic movement, led by D Beatriz Kimpa Vita from 1704 to 1706. Many thousands of Kongo were transported across the Atlantic to the Americas, and especially to Brazil. The Afro-Brazilian Quimbanda religion is a new world manifestation of Bantu religion and spirituality, and Kongo Christianity played a role in the formation of Voudou in Haiti.


Other Kongo living outside the Kingdom of Kongo were not converted and continued their traditional form of religion however, and it was not until the late nineteenth century that missionaries entered the areas north of the Kingdom of Kongo. Since the 1880s Protestant missionaries, and then renewed Catholic missionaries have claimed a large number of Kongo as converts. Following 1921, a new form of Christianity preached by Simon Kimbangu became extremely popular in spite of the attempts of both Belgian and Portuguese governments to suppress it. Kimbanguism is a very powerful religious spiritual force today, as is one of its modern spin-offs, the Dibundu dia Kongo led by Mwanda Nsemi.





Antique Kuyu Terracotta Statue with vivid colors     395 $

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.

Recommended Reading:

Nicklin, K. "Kuyu Sculpture at the Powell-Cotton Museum", in African Arts, XVII, 1. 1983.

Kerchache, J (ed.)., Art of Africa, 1988

Shipping included.


Pair of proud standing male and female figures of the Igbo Nigeria     1200 $







High quality pair of proud standing male and female figures from the Igbo people in Nigeria, made of strong and heavy wood and mounted on custom stands. The figures were made around 1950. Former collection of Dr. Heinz Werner Schmitt, Hamburg, Germany. Good condition with blackened patina and some cracks, no repairs.

Size: 47 cm height x 10 cm width.


Shipping included.



Agere Ifa Figure from the Yoruba People     1200 $    sold



Wonderful kneeling female Agere Ifa Figure from the Yoruba People made of wood and pigment, carrying a bowl. The figure has good age and shows much handling.


Such figures could well have been used in the divination process among the Yoruba called Ifa. Cowry shells, cola nuts, may have been kept in the bowl being carried by the woman. These objects were used by a Yoruba diviner who would throw them on the ground and read their pattern to determine the will of Orunmila, one of the major Yoruba deities who knows all, past and present. The diviner is one who can insure that we live in a state of balance and harmony and to lead us to a good life.

This Agere Ifa is carved in one of the numerous Yoruba sub-styles as would be expected from one of the largest art producing groups in Africa. Placed in a shrine such a figure could be a devotee of either Eshu or Shango, both major deities in the Yoruba pantheon. Offerings would be made to her leading to the bowl held by the figure. The figure was also used to serve kola nuts.

Among the Yoruba of Nigeria sculpture in service to ritual and religion is integral to life whether used during divination or masks worn or figural sculptures that are found in shrines or carried during ceremonies. There is a large corpus of Yoruba sculpture known and identified as to symbol and meaning identified to the various orishas or deities. Yoruba traditional religion has a structured pantheon of the deities known as Orisha numbering between 400 and 700 individual Yoruba gods that may share powers and attributes that are articulated in sculptural form.

Recommended Reading:

R. F. Thompson: Black Gods and Kings: Yoruba Art at UCLA, (Los Angeles, 1971)

W. Fagg and J. Pemberton III: Yoruba Sculpture of West Africa, (New York, 1982)

H. J. Drewal and J. Pemberton III, with R. Abiodun Yoruba: Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought, (New York, 1989)

Lawal, B.: The Gelede Spectacle. Art, Gender, and Social Harmony in an African Culture. (Seattle, London 1996)

Witte, H.: A Closer Look; Local Styles in the Yoruba Art Collection of the Afrika Museum, Berg en Dal. 2004.

Shipping included


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