Rare Ababwa Female Figure, Northern Region, Democratic Republic of the Congo
height 17 3/4in (45.1cm)
Wood, metal, pitch tar, an early label, originally affixed to the figure, now on the bottom of the base
Henri Kamer, Paris and New York
Private Collection, New York
A rare standing female figure with ridged coiffure on top of her forward positioned head, the pronounced forehead with median incised line, bisecting the head; her face defined with cowrie-shaped closed eyes, wide nose, full lips and large pierced ears. The neck extending to full torso with large breasts, extended abdomen and navel to muscular legs with feet on raised blocks. Her arms hang downward with extended hands and fingers. She has finely incised scarification on forehead, face, breasts, abdomen extending from navel and back of figure on legs and shoulders; carved genitalia; native repair on feet and below; old metal nails on head and feet; fine glossy black/brown patina overall.
"For years these Ababwa had been spoken of as a race of savages living in a land where no white man could penetrate. The Azande chiefs, who held the whole length of the river [Uele], were responsible for these sinister rumors and false reports, and purposely kept them afloat for their own ends, as they were in the habit of purchasing all the ivory collected by the Ababwa at an absurdly cheap rate, and selling it to the white traders at different stations in the neighborhood at a large profit, so that they held entire control of the ivory market in that district. At the same time they were careful to impress upon the Ababwa chiefs that the white man was a living terror, and that any Ababwa who should venture to approach a white man's station would undoubtedly be hanged, and that all his followers would be made slaves. By this means the Azande, as middlemen, controlled the ivory market to his [sic] own advantage." (Burrows, Guy. 1898. The Land of the Pigmies. London: pg. 201-2)
"Do you not know that the Ababua are very ferocious [ferocissimi]? [...] The Ababua do not allow strangers to visit their country; they would never allow a white man to pass their boundaries!" (Casati, Dieci anni in Equatoria e ritorno con Emin Pascia. 2 vols. Milan: Fratelli Dumolard. 1891, 1:200-1; 1895 1:177-8)
- Please note there is an early label which reads "Ababwa, Zaire, Southern Kasai", originally affixed to the figure, now on the bottom of the base.