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Staff

Accession Number
2001/2.64

Title
Staff

Artist(s)
Kongo

Artist Nationality
Kongo (culture or style)

Object Creation Date
Early to mid-20th century

Medium & Support
wood

Dimensions
27 3/4 in x 1 15/16 in x 1 3/4 in (70.49 cm x 4.92 cm x 4.45 cm);27 3/4 in x 1 15/16 in x 1 3/4 in (70.49 cm x 4.92 cm x 4.45 cm);28 9/16 in x 1 15/16 in x 1 3/4 in (72.55 cm x 4.92 cm x 4.45 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of Margaret H. and Albert J. Coudron

Subject matter
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.

Physical Description
This short, elaborately carved Kongo staff features a diverse range of forms, both anthropomorphic and zoomorphic. From the top, a standing male figure wears a Western-style suit and brimmed hat and holds a small box in his hands; below, an unclothed standing female figure carries a child on her back. Further down are smaller figural representations: a kneeling figure in a position of prayer, a turtle, and a bird on one side and a bird, a turtle, a ram’s horn, and a cross on the other.  

Primary Object Classification
Wood and Woodcarving

Primary Object Type
staff

Additional Object Classification(s)
Sculpture

Collection Area
African

Rights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.

Keywords
anthropomorphic
fertility
maternity
power
prestige
staff
staffs (walking sticks)
symbols of office or status
wild animals
woodcarving
zoomorphic

1 Related Resource

We Write to You About Africa: Docent Module
(Part of: Fall 2021 Docent Exhibition Packet)

& Author Notes

Web Use Permitted