Mambila Figure

hcc-1113-3_mambila_f_  hcc-1113-3_mambila_v_  hcc-1113-3_mambila_b_   hcc-1113-3_mambila_34p_

HCK 1113-3a – SOLD

Mambila Tadep Figure, Cameroon/Nigeria, Africa

H:50 cm (19,7″), W: 15 cm (5,9″)

The Mambila are famous for the originality of their sculpture, especially the so-called tadep figures, characterized by a heart-shaped face. They are thought to embody ancestors who are responsible for the clan’s wealth. The tadep figures were used in healing rites and to deter thieves.

According to Kerchache (1990: 144), Mambila “religious life centres around ancestor worship.  Every village has an ancestor hut that is entrusted to the care of the elder.  It is built of stilts and has an image called ‘Baltu’ displayed on its front wall which shows a man and a woman holding a net which is used for catching birds or fish.  The ancestor figures of the Mambila are kept in such nets.  These figures are carved out of very soft wood and painted with red, white and black pigments.  They are called tadep or tadep dia (figures that measure 30 cm or more).”

Like many pieces from this part of Africa, it is not really possible to know why it was made.  This figure is a classic example of the Mambila sculpture. The body is very disproportional. The head is decorated with several small wooden pegs with two carved horns. The head has the classic heart-shaped face.  The square shoulders and the slightly bent legs are typical of the Mambila figures. The body is covered with a heavy encrusted patina.

Provenance: Belgian private collection.

Recommended Reading: Tong, J.Y. 1967. “African Art in the Mambila Collection of Gilbert D. Schneider.” see also 27 Tamara Northern, EXPRESSIONS OF CAMEROON ART, fig 10, p. 27

Click here for more information about the Mambila people

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