Kusu Figure

jlk-1007-7_kusu_f_  jlk-1007-7_kusu_v_  jlk-1007-7_kusu_b_  jlk-1007-7_kusu_34p_

JLK 1007-7

Kusu Hermaphrodite Figure, DR Congo

H: 34 cm (13,4″), W: 5 cm (2″)

This imposing hermaphrodite figure with hands resting on the abdomen is a masterful example of Luba artistry. In the rendering of different parts of its composition it suggests stylistic influence from neighbouring Luba-related or Luba-ized groups who honored ancestral spirits through portraiture such as the Sikassingo, Hemba, Kusu, and Tabwa. However, the classification as Luba is definite and can be based on the facial features as well as the surface pattern of the braid which alludes to the incised geometric design found on the back of memory boards (lukasa), staffs, and other royal Luba emblems. The large quantities of oil exuding from the figures inside, as well as the appearance of the wood attests to the great age of this work. Note the perfect balance of the object seen in profile, and the power coming out of his face reduced to its simplest expression. This character probably served reliquary.

Age: Est. late 19th – early 20th Century

Time-Life Inc., The Sculpture of Black Africa (film), 1970
Eliot Elisofon, Black African Heritage, Part 1: The Congo (film), 1971
Jean-Baptiste Bacquart, The Tribal Arts of Africa
Werner Gillon “Collecting African art”
Frans M. Olbrechts: “In Search of Art in Africa (2001)”
Constantine Petridis, “Context en morfologie van de plastische kunst bij de Luluwa (Zuid-Centraal Zaire)

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