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Lot No. 89


Mbole, Dem. Rep. of Congo: A very rare ‘okifa’ figure.


Mbole, Dem. Rep. of Congo: A very rare ‘okifa’ figure. - Tribal Art

Among the Mbole, in northern Congo, the secret society called ‘Lilwa’ is in charge of social life and jurisdiction. The ‘Lilwa society’ also has the power to impose death sentences, especially in connection with the offence of betraying secrets of the ‘Lilwa society’. The present figure, made of hard wood and coloured black and white, is referred to as ‘okifa’. It depicts a man sentenced to death by hanging. Typical features of the image of the hanged person are protruding shoulders and ‘hanging’, rather than standing, feet. These ‘okifa figures’ play an essential role during the initiation of young Mbole men. They are preserved in special huts in the woods, in the vicinity of the initiates’ bush camp. This is because the ‘okifa’ are not memorial figures depicting criminals who were actually hanged, but are a warning and deterrent and serve ‘educational purposes’. They vividly show young initiates what would happen to them in case they violate the prescriptions and the laws of the ‘Lilwa society’! The present, old ‘okifa figure’ features the typical protruding shoulders and ‘hanging’ feet of a hanged man. It is dyed black, with a white face (in African art, white usually symbolises death). The whole figure is pierced under the head, on the back and on the hips. These holes are used for hanging the ‘okifa figures’ in the huts or directly in the woods as a visual deterrent for the young men of the Mbole people. An excellent, ‘classic’ example of an ‘okifa figure’. With beautiful patina and in perfect condition. Rare! Between c. 1900 and the first third of the 20th century; H: 30 cm.

Provenance: Ludwig Bretschneider, Munich. From the private collection of the well-known German tribal art dealer, Ludwig Bretschneider, subsequently sold at auction, currently in a German private collection. (ME)

Lit.: ‘Die Kunst des schwarzen Afrika’ by Kerchache, Paudrat, Stephan, ill. 169, 170, 1005; ‘African Art in American Collections’ by Robbins & Nooter, ill. 1265, 1266, 1267; ‘The Tribal Arts of Africa’ by Jean-Baptiste Bacquart, ill. p. 147.

Specialist: Erwin Melchardt Erwin Melchardt
+43-1-515 60-465

erwin.melchardt@dorotheum.at

05.11.2014 - 13:00

Estimate:
EUR 3,200.- to EUR 4,000.-

Mbole, Dem. Rep. of Congo: A very rare ‘okifa’ figure.


Among the Mbole, in northern Congo, the secret society called ‘Lilwa’ is in charge of social life and jurisdiction. The ‘Lilwa society’ also has the power to impose death sentences, especially in connection with the offence of betraying secrets of the ‘Lilwa society’. The present figure, made of hard wood and coloured black and white, is referred to as ‘okifa’. It depicts a man sentenced to death by hanging. Typical features of the image of the hanged person are protruding shoulders and ‘hanging’, rather than standing, feet. These ‘okifa figures’ play an essential role during the initiation of young Mbole men. They are preserved in special huts in the woods, in the vicinity of the initiates’ bush camp. This is because the ‘okifa’ are not memorial figures depicting criminals who were actually hanged, but are a warning and deterrent and serve ‘educational purposes’. They vividly show young initiates what would happen to them in case they violate the prescriptions and the laws of the ‘Lilwa society’! The present, old ‘okifa figure’ features the typical protruding shoulders and ‘hanging’ feet of a hanged man. It is dyed black, with a white face (in African art, white usually symbolises death). The whole figure is pierced under the head, on the back and on the hips. These holes are used for hanging the ‘okifa figures’ in the huts or directly in the woods as a visual deterrent for the young men of the Mbole people. An excellent, ‘classic’ example of an ‘okifa figure’. With beautiful patina and in perfect condition. Rare! Between c. 1900 and the first third of the 20th century; H: 30 cm.

Provenance: Ludwig Bretschneider, Munich. From the private collection of the well-known German tribal art dealer, Ludwig Bretschneider, subsequently sold at auction, currently in a German private collection. (ME)

Lit.: ‘Die Kunst des schwarzen Afrika’ by Kerchache, Paudrat, Stephan, ill. 169, 170, 1005; ‘African Art in American Collections’ by Robbins & Nooter, ill. 1265, 1266, 1267; ‘The Tribal Arts of Africa’ by Jean-Baptiste Bacquart, ill. p. 147.

Specialist: Erwin Melchardt Erwin Melchardt
+43-1-515 60-465

erwin.melchardt@dorotheum.at


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Auction: Tribal Art
Date: 05.11.2014 - 13:00
Location: Vienna | Palais Dorotheum
Exhibition: 31.10. - 05.11.2014