Hungana people, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 19th century or before
Height : 32 cm
Provenance : Patrick Dierickx, Brussels
Christie’s, London, 29 june 1994, n° 129
Private collection, New York
Wooden sculptures are extremely rare in the - already- scarce corpus of Hungana art. Marc Felix (in 100 peoples of Zaïre and their sculpture, 1987, p. 42) et Arthur Bourgeois (in Phillips, Africa, the Art of a Continent, 1995, p. 261) notes that some of these sculptures were used by the diviners and placed in houses for protection, whereas the tallest ones - ancestral figures of the clan- were displayed on altars with skulls of the deceased. They are characterised, like the present example, by a tripartite headdress, a predominantly red thick and crusty patina, hands joined at the chin (or cheeks or temples) in a remarkably bold articulation of volumes and voids.
See Valluet (in Felix, White gold, black hands, 2012, vol. 3, p. 146, n° 34) for a figure with similar gesture, and Kerchache, Paudrat et Stephan (L’art africain, 2008, p. 450, n° 832) for another, in the collection of Musée Dapper, Paris.
Apart from its aesthetic qualities, the present figure shows an erosion and a patina that places it among the most ancient testimonies of Hungana art.