The Mbole social life was governed by a highly hierarchical secret initiatory society named the lilwa. This almost exclusively male community commonly practiced hanging, first as a punishment to deter the villagers from exercising harm and also to help their dying dignitaries to prepare the journey to the afterlife.
Most Mbole figures have an attitude of a starting flight, with bent knees and downward pointing feet which already prevent a further walking. A striking contrast is obvious in the quality of carving between the geometric precision of the head and the rest of the body which is only sketch-like.
The elongation of some of these figures evokes the corpse dried after the hanging. This is not the case of the statuette for sale but other characteristics confirm that it shows the deceased during his process of transformation into a spirit : the white face is a symbol of death and his head is reddish from the blood of the rebirth. Life was not any more supplying its sufferings and his expression is both serene and chilling.
This figure is a stunning and terrifying masterpiece from the deep rainforest. The annihilation of these societies under a pretext of civilization makes it difficult to reach a complete understanding of its mystical message.
SOLD for $ 1.2M including premium