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19th and 20th Century African Arts: Mother and Child


Mother and child, Kongo, from Mayombe region, Democratic Republic of Congo, 19th or early 20th Century, Wood, glass, glass beads, brass tacks ang pigment, 10 1/8" high.


Kongo Art originates from southern Democratic Republic of Congo. This mother and child sculpture represents Kongo royalty indicaterd by the woman's cap, chest scarification and jewelry. It may commemorate an ancestor or probably a legendary founding clan mother, a genetrix. The Kongo called some of this type of figure "white chalk" which is a reference to the medicinal power of white kaolin clay. Diviners owned some of the and other were used in wormen's organizations concerned with fertility and the treatment of infertility. 


Mother with child laying in her lap.


Mother and child


Made of primarily of wood. Glass is used for the eyes and beads. The artist also uses brass tacks and pigments. The sculpture is 10" high. The stylized mother is in a seated position on a platform with a child laying across her lap. Her cap is incised with geometric shapes. Circles that perhaps represent jewelry run across her forehead. She has large open eyes and a broad nose. Her teeth are sharp points. Her upper chest area is incised with a pattern that represents her scarification. Breast are very conical. The child is looking up at her, touching her breast with is right hand and his own penis with his left. She has a necklace of blue beads. 


The mother is a very powerful figure in African art. They are the source of life and strength. This figure may function as a fertility or healing image.