240754 - Old & Rare African Lwalwa sculpture - Congo.


Old & Rare Finely crafted African sculpture from the Lwalwa, Congo.
Hand carved from a single piece of wood.
This is a feminine protection statue that protects the woman and her pregnancy against evil outside influences.
Height: 35 cm.
This Lwalwa sculpture dates from the mid of the 20th century and was purchased in my private collection in 2022, with a certificate of authenticity.
Lwalwa people are related to Lulua. The triangle formed by the Kasai River and its tributary, the Lweta, in the southwest of the former Kasai province, is home to 20,000 Lwalwa in the DRC, but many more in Angola. Their social and political organization is rudimentary. Each Lwalwa village is led by a male or female leader, whose power is kept in check by a powerful society, the Bangongo. The Lwalwa believe in a supreme being, but they worship only the spirits of the hunt and nature.
The land where the Lwalwa live is rich and fertile and lends itself well to the agricultural economy of the people. The women are almost entirely responsible for everything involved in growing crops, both for local consumption and for trade. The men do lend a hand during the busy harvest time, so that they can assess their household intake for the season. Although the males' hunting occasionally provides some extra protein, the females provide the majority of the nutritious intake. Hunting, sometimes individual and sometimes communal, still plays an important social role among the Lwalwa. The sculptor enjoyed a privileged status and was paid handsomely; his profession was hereditary and because of his wealth he was often appointed village chief, responsible for the masked dances.
Lwalwa sculptors are known for their beautiful wooden statues. These statues usually show a balanced composition, an enlarged angular nose, a protruding mouth and slanting eyes under a deeply shaped forehead. These sharply defined features give Lwalwa art an almost geometric appearance. The shapes of the nose are modeled after different birds. The lips are narrow but prominent and thick; the eyes have openings in horizontal slits. On the temples they have a protrusion that represents a tattoo. The images had an important function in the bangongo dance of the hunting ritual. If hunters returned empty-handed, the ancestors were appeased by organizing a dance and sacrificing an image.