Ngbaka or Zande figure
Ngbaka or Zande figure, Democratic Republic of the Congo
10" tall
brass, wood
I particularly love the animated facial gesture of this figure. Objects from this area are comparatively rare in Western
collections as Ubangi sculpture is the last significant regional art style in sub-Saharan Africa to be identified and
studied. Attribution of objects to a specific culture from this region can be complicated due to the fact that figures
produced by various groups in this region share a complicated network of similarities.

Sculpture from the area classified as the Ubangi region was the subject of an exhibition "Ubangi: Art and Cultures
from the African Heartland" held at the Africa Museum Berg-en-Dal in 2007. Ubangi is a term used to describe the
array of cultures from central Africa that were dispersed on both sides of the Ubangi river which separated the
Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of Congo.  

This original use of this particular figure is unknown. Generally, sculpture from this region had a wide range of
uses; they were used by cults and sects that settled disputes within the village community, oversaw the moral
development of youngsters, played a role in the healing of psychosomatic disorders, and offered their members
protection and well-being.

For additional reading I would recommend the article in the summer 2007 issue of TRIBAL magazine entitled "UBANGI : Open
Borders in a Central African Crucible" by Jan-Lodewijk Grootaers and also "Sculpture of the Ubangi" by Georges Meurant in the
same publication.

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A stylistically similar figure identified as Ngbaka (shown above) was published in the book "Art
d'Afrique noire au pays du fleuve Zaïre" (1972) by Joseph Cornet.