FigureArtist(s)YakaArtist NationalityYaka (Kwango-Kwilu region style)Object Creation Datecirca 1920Medium & SupportwoodDimensions
13 3/4 in x 2 13/16 in x 3 1/8 in (34.9 cm x 7.2 cm x 7.9 cm)Credit LineGift of Candis and Helmut SternSubject matter
This carved, wooden figure of a standing male with an anteater perched atop its head is attributed to the Yaka, who today live in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Yaka produce two genres of figural sculptures: the power figure (nkisi
) which bears medicinal ingredients and the ancestral figure (bakhaaka
). According to Yaka belief, the latter are regarded as receptacles of the spirits of deceased ancestors. Healers, diviners, and chiefs use these figures in order to invoke the ancestors’ intercession and guidance. Therefore, figures such as this one serve as visual and tactile reminders of the ancestors’ assured assistance in procuring good health, fortune, and protection against any harm. Here, the anteater symbolizes fertility, and by extension, the continuity of the family line—a primary concern among members of the community.
Maurer, Evan M. and Niangi Batulukisi. Spirits Embodied: Art of the Congo, Selections from the Helmut F. Stern Collection
. Minneapolis: The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1999Physical Description
This carved, wooden Yaka figure depicts a man standing with an animal perched atop his head. The carving is stylized and exhibits characteristics typically seen among northern Yaka figural representations: flexed knees; arms bent with upturned palms positioned at shoulder level; and, an animal figure upon its head. In this case, the creature has a curved body and appears to be an anteater. The male figure has a narrow, cylindrical body; a slightly protruding belly; a simple coiffure; an elongated face; barely-open eyes from which vertical lines extend downward; a disproportionately large, pointed nose, and a darkened beard.Primary Object Classification Sculpture Primary Object TypefigureCollection AreaAfricanRights
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human figures (visual works)
protection (maintenance function)