Yombe Mother–and-child figure

Type: Mother and Child
Exhibits: Cycle of Life
Tribes: Kongo Group, Yombe peoples
Location: western Democratic Republic of Congo
Period: 20th Century
Materials: Wood

The Yombe are one of several Kongo groups, famous for wood mother-and-child carving.This is a superb example of Yombe sculpture used for fertility rituals. This female figure represents typical Yombe traits: she is sitting cross-legged holding a child on her lap, her head is lifted with an open mouth revealing filed teeth. But this female figure embodied here a gentler spiritual force; she is equipped with two unusual emblems: sitting on a tortoise and holding a snake on her head. The tortoise in Africa is a symbol of old wisdom, cautiousness and prudence, and since it lives on earth and underwater, gives it familiarity with spirits of the otherworld who live in water. The snakes enjoy a special status in Africa, they are believed to have a relationship with spirits, or to be inhabited by spirits, or be spirits themselves. They may be messengers of the ancestors, between the living and the spirit world. (J.Knapperrt, African Mythology 1990:220-1, 244).  So this figure is sculptured not only as Maternity figure, but also as seer and guardian of the spirits. "Images of women in ritual contexts and mother and child figures represent more than symbols of fertility, they communicate sexual abstinence, inner cleanliness, ritual purity, female force and spirituality" (Demott, 1998:20).

Yombe Mother–and-child figure
Yombe Mother–and-child figure
Yombe Mother–and-child figure
Yombe Mother–and-child figure