Yaka or Nkanu mbwoolu figure, D.R. Congo
Wood, pigment
Mid 20th century
12" tall
ex Belgian collection

An interesting figure with an elongated cylindrical trunk with physical deformity
(arms), head with "
bweni" headdress and with facial features more resembling
those found on Nkanu figures and masks, slightly damaged with minor missing
parts (right front part of foot), stabilized crack (left side of the head and body);
mbwoolu" figures were used for healing illnesses. The figures always show
physical deformities such as missing limbs, expanding body sections,
janus-form, or spiralled torso. The latter symbolizes belly ache or a general
feeling of malady.

I particularly find the face of this figure interesting, but what drew me to it
originally was the representation of the arms. The top sections of the arms meet
on the left shoulder instead of the middle or to each side, and instead of
meeting in the middle of the upper torso they come together on the right side of
the body. It gives it the deformity effect of one arm being shorter than the other
when viewed from the front.

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Additional photos can be provided by request if needed.