"Teke people (Bateke), Democratic Republic of the Congo, Africa: Bulti Bonga (Power Figure) Late 19th Century (Circa 1875). Carved wood, wax, natural pigments and unknown materials.
SIZE: 21" x 7" x 7"
This imposing abstracted male figure dons the distinctive Mupani coif of the Sise sub-tribe. Thee are no tribal marks on the face, indicating that the figure represents a Bulti (ancestor of the tribe) and the presence of Bonga (substances placed within the cavity of the abdomen, and sealed with resin) confers great mystical power.
In place of arms, each side is adorned with bas relief male faces with Mupani hair styles and beards. Made for use in a magical or medicinal context, the front center of the abdomen has a circular patch of wax or resin which seals a cavity potentially filled with Bonga (appropriate curative substances.)
The position of the legs of this figure are bent, as in men's dances. The feet are flat-bottomed, to allow the figure to stand. The feet were partially buried in light soil. The feet of this figure show such use, as there is evidence of damage by insects.
In traditional use, Bonga are kept in men's personal huts and especially in the huts of chiefs. Bonga are personal property with specific power kept secret by its owner. In the hands of another, the object has no positive power.
The nga (fetish man) usually possesses several bonga. Each has a specific application, such as success in hunting or transactions, and protection against diseases.
This piece will be accompanied by a certificate of authenticity.
Private collection, Massachusetts
Condition: Aged, worn condition. The wood has cracks and there is insect damage to the legs. One foot has an inconspicuous glued repair. The hair's crest is damaged and also has wax residue which may have once affixed hair or feathers.