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Catalog Data

Maker:
Jiji artist  Search this
Medium:
Wood
Dimensions:
H x W x D: 54.8 × 14.5 × 14.3 cm (21 9/16 × 5 11/16 × 5 5/8 in.)
Type:
Sculpture
Geography:
Kigoma town, Tanzania
Date:
Early 20th century
Label Text:
This beautifully realized figure of a female bowl-bearer is attributed to a Tabwa-related Jiji artist who worked on the eastern side of Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania. The arts of the Tabwa and Tabwa-related peoples reflect the dynamic political and migration histories of southeastern central Africa dating from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries, which led to the dissemination and adoption of certain traditions and cultural forms among societies that also preserved their own distinct cultures and identities. The Tabwa, who live in the southeastern section of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and northeastern Zambia, settled in this region in the sixteenth century in lands adjacent to Luba and Bemba kingdoms. Arts from this region, by Luba, Hemba, Bemba, Lunda, Chokwe, Tabwa, and Jiji artists, include standing figures, seated bowl-bearers, headrests, and a range of arts associated with status and prestige.
Allen F. Roberts, an anthropologist and noted scholar of Tabwa history, art, and culture, reflected on the bowl-bearer in Tabwa: The Rising of a New Moon: A Century of Tabwa Art, the authoritative 1985 publication he co-authored with Evan M. Mauer. Roberts noted that while Tabwa artists made no bowl figures, this figure was likely produced on the Tanzanian eastern side of Lake Tanganyika in the Ujiji area of the railhead and port town of Kigoma (personal correspondence, email dated 8 July 2015). Roberts indicated that some living on the Tanzanian side of the lake “share clan and political histories with Tabwa, from the southwestern shores, but this is more true south of Kigoma. In and around the town itself, the Jiji reference is most directly related to the mix of people resulting from the east African slave trade through which a great many Congolese were captured and transported across the lake. Some enslaved people were kept around Ujiji, but most were force-marched eastward, first to Tabora where many were set to work in plantation labor, then on to the coast where more were integrated into Swahili activities, and whence some proportion were shipped out into the Indian Ocean World” (ibid).
This bowl-bearing figure conforms stylistically to selected standing and seated figures identified as belonging to “one of the Tabwa workshops located around the town of Ujiji and in areas east of the lake” (Mauer in Mauer and Roberts 1985: 148). Carvings from this region are characterized by narrow, oval, slightly upturned faces, elongated necks and torsos, and, at times, “a dark stained torso with scarification patterns cut through to reveal the lighter wood beneath” (ibid). The sculpture presented here is distinguished by a beautifully rendered coiffeur and lozenge-shaped body scarification motifs that Allen F. Roberts associates more with northern Tabwa as they blend into people heading westward from the lake. He notes that these embellishments “might explain the figure as a bowl/basket-bearer, as well. The line of scarification down the nose, the elongated neck and torso, and the cap-style coiffure [reflect] Tabwa aesthetic sensibilities” (personal communication, 8 July 2015). Figures from this region functioned in a range of contexts, including ancestral, ritual, divination, and healing.
Description:
Carved wooden sculpture of a female figure seated on a round stool and holding a bowl. The figure’s small, ovoid head, ornamented with a decorative coiffure, rests atop an elongated, cylindrical neck with a slight laryngeal prominence (or Adam’s apple). The torso is similarly elongated, with small, rounded breasts and a projecting abdomen. Low-relief lozenge-shaped body scarification patterns ornament the torso and portions of the neck, back, and thighs. Long arms, bent at the elbows, lead to hands that hold a cylindrical bowl ornamented with linear motifs. The figure has relatively short, rounded thighs and legs bent at the knees; the feet do not touch the ground. The figure’s head is defined by oval eye sockets, projecting coffee-bean shaped eyes, pursed lips, and a broad nose with flattened bridge that connects to the coiffeur. Registers of evenly-spaced, low-relief, lozenge-shaped patterns running horizontally across the front and vertically along the back define the coiffure, which is also ornamented with carved representations of animal horns. A horizontal band of low-relief lozenge-shaped scarification designs similarly embellish the corner of each eye and run vertically down the back of the neck. Low-relief, lozenge-shaped scarification patterns run horizontally along the front of the chest and the upper back, continue vertically down the figure’s midline, and ornament the lower back, sides and upper thighs of the figure. An ‘X’-shaped motif is incised into each side of the buttocks and on the figure’s thighs. The bowl is embellished with carved linear and zigzag designs. Vertical registers of linear and triangular chip-carved designs ornament the seat and supports of the stool. A rounded wooden peg inserted into the figure’s PL shoulder suggests a repair (possibly local). There is a slight whitish coloration to the bowl’s interior and areas around the decorative embellishments have a slightly reddish hue. Inscribed with number 491 (twice) and JIJI in black marker on felt bottom of base.
The figure’s head is defined by oval eye sockets, projecting coffee-bean shaped eyes, pursed lips, and a broad nose with flattened bridge that connects to the coiffeur. Registers of evenly-spaced, low-relief, lozenge-shaped patterns running horizontally across the front and vertically along the back define the coiffure, which is also ornamented with carved representations of animal horns. A horizontal band of low-relief lozenge-shaped scarification designs similarly embellish the corner of each eye and run vertically down the back of the neck. Low-relief, lozenge-shaped scarification patterns run horizontally along the front of the chest and the upper back, continue vertically down the figure’s midline, and ornament the lower back, sides and upper thighs of the figure. An ‘X’-shaped motif is incised into each side of the buttocks and on the figure’s thighs. The bowl is embellished with carved linear and zigzag designs. Vertical registers of linear and triangular chip-carved designs ornament the seat and supports of the stool. A rounded wooden peg inserted into the figure’s PL shoulder suggests a repair (possibly local). There is a slight whitish coloration to the bowl’s interior and areas around the decorative embellishments have a slightly reddish hue. Inscribed with number 491 (twice) and JIJI in black marker on felt bottom of base.
A rounded wooden peg inserted into the figure’s PL shoulder suggests a repair (possibly local). There is a slight whitish coloration to the bowl’s interior and areas around the decorative embellishments have a slightly reddish hue. Inscribed with number 491 (twice) and JIJI in black marker on felt bottom of base.
Provenance:
Margaret Webster Plass, Philadelphia, before 1960
Henri L. Schouten, Amsterdam, Netherlands, by January 2, 1969
William W. Brill, New York, after 1969
Sotheby's, New York, Nov. 17, 2006, sale N08287, lot 120
Jacques Germain Arts Ethnographique, Montreal, Canada, late 2006
Steven Morris Fine Art, LLC, Birmingham, MI, 2015
Exhibition History:
Visionary: Viewpoints on Africa's Arts, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., November 4, 2017-ongoing
Tweed Art Gallery, University of Minnesota, Duluth, January 14-February 22, 1970
St. Paul Art Center, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 23-December 21, 1969
Selections from the William W. Brill Collection of African Art, Milwaukee Public Museum, May 5-August 31, 1969
Published References:
Lehuard, Raoul. 1978. “La collection William Brill,” Arts d’Afrique Noire 26 (summer 1978): 17-22; illustrated on page 19 in a photograph of Brill residence interior.
Mauer, Evan and Roberts, Allen F. 1985. Tabwa: The Rising of a New Moon: A Century of Tabwa Art. Ann Arbnor: The University of Michigan Museum of Art: 246, fig. 175.
Robbins, Warren M. and Nooter, Nancy I. 1989. African Art in American Collections. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press: 513, fig. 1347.
Germain, J. 2008. Art Ancien de l’Afrique Noire. Montreal: Jacques Germain Gallery: 98-99.
Schaedler, Karl-Ferdinand. 2009. Encyclopedia of African Art and Culture. Munich: Panterra Verlag: 308.
Topic:
Status  Search this
geometric motif  Search this
male  Search this
female  Search this
Healing  Search this
Credit Line:
Museum purchase
Object number:
2015-16-3
Restrictions & Rights:
Usage conditions apply
See more items in:
National Museum of African Art Collection
Exhibition:
Visionary: Viewpoints on Africa's Arts
On View:
NMAfA, Second Level Gallery (2193)
Data Source:
National Museum of African Art
GUID:
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ys7b864abb3-00b4-4e61-9116-21f0b97fa958
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:nmafa_2015-16-3