Amulet PendantArtist(s)PendeArtist NationalityPendeObject Creation Datecirca 1930Medium & SupportivoryDimensions
2 3/16 in x 1 1/4 in x 1 3/16 in (5.56 cm x 3.18 cm x 3.02 cm);2 3/16 in x 1 1/4 in x 1 3/16 in (5.56 cm x 3.18 cm x 3.02 cm)Credit LineGift of Candis and Helmut SternSubject matter
This ivory pendant depicting a finely carved male head is attributed to the Pende, who today live in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Known as ikhoko
, pendants such as this one are in fact miniaturized versions of anthropomorphic Pende mbuya
masks and consequently share many of the same facial traits. Carved either in ivory or hippopotamus bone, these pendants not only have ornamental value but also have symbolic, protective, and healing functions.
First, the pendants serve as insignia for men who have undergone initiation into the Mukanda
, an all-male association responsible for honoring the spirits of deceased ancestors and soliciting their assistance to ensure the success and well-being of the community. Second, ikhoko
are worn around the neck of dancers performing in various ceremonies to protect them against the formidable power of the masks that they don. According to the Pende, mbuya
masks are imbued with both benevolent and malevolent powers, and the ikhoko
will simultaneously ward off the evil forces and enable the wearer to profit solely from the good ones. Finally, these pendants act as healing charms or curative amulets for those afflicted either by a physical ailment or the ill-effects of a particularly malicious spirit. Ikhoko
are scrubbed daily with sand to preserve their natural color; as a result, their features appear smooth and polished.
Reference:A History of Art in Africa
. 2nd Edition. Eds. Monica Visona, Robin Poynor, and Herbert Cole. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc., 2008.
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, 1999.Physical Description
This small Pende ivory pendant (ikhoko
) depicts a delicately carved male head. Stylistically, ikhoko
bear many of the facial characteristics of anthropomorphic Pende mbuya
masks, after which they have been modeled. In this particular example, an ovoid head rests atop a conical neck and features a spiked, crown-like coiffure, a large, bulbous forehead, a V-shaped brow, laterally protruding ears, heavily lidded and downcast eyes, an up-turned nose, a wide mouth, and a slightly pointed chin. Circular motifs decorate the top of the forehead and the neck. The pendant also possesses a pale yellow patina, possibly from contact with tukula powder.Primary Object Classification Jewelry Primary Object TypependantCollection AreaAfricanRights
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protection (maintenance function)
symbols of office or status