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Female Figure (Lupingu lwa Bwimpe or Bwanga bwa Bwimpe)

This figure represents Luluwa sculpture at its best, showing a complex harmony of form and surface effects. The Luluwa, who live near the Luluwa (Lulua) River in south-central Democratic Republic of the Congo, are particularly known for carved female figures that range in height from four to eighteen inches and were used in cults related to mothers and their newborns. This figure’s richly patinated surface suggests that the figure was much used and reflects the custom of rubbing a newborn, mother, and figure with red earth or powdered tree bark, palm oil, and water. The museum’s figure was collected by Belgian colonial officer Sergeant Henri Joseph Lassaux in Luluabourg (now Kananga) sometime between his arrival in central Africa in 1894 and mid-1896, when he returned to Belgium.

Luluwa peoples, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Female Figure (Lupingu lwa Bwimpe or Bwanga bwa Bwimpe)
Second half of the 19th century
Wood, incrustation, kaolin
H. 17 in. (43.2 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Raymond and Laura Wielgus Collection, 75.91