The elegant art of the Tabwa has only been considered distinct for about 30 years. The majority of pieces collected prior to the 1970's were identified as Luba, who are their neighbors to the west. Tabwa art is produced primarily to venerate ancestors, and in that respect it reflects one of the most predominant of Congo ideals. The Tabwa produce small to mid-size ancestor statues, which often feature beautiful triangular scarifications thought to represent the new moon; long, braided hairdos which can extend down the back almost to the waist; and a curious mouth posture with protruding tongue. Often the face appears to be looking slightly skyward, eyes wide open. These ancestor carvings, called "mikisi, and the rituals associated with them, allow certain families and traditional leaders to consolidate their power, using the"special" knowledge of the ancestors to their advantage. It boils down, in many ways, to the politics of fear, West African-style. Unlike the Luba, whose statuary is predominantly female, the Tabwa carve both male and female figures. Another reflection of their recent Congo heritage is the production of small prestige objects like combs, stools, and small ivory and bone figures.
To TEFAF Maastricht 2018 gallery Entwistle, stand 166 will bring this mikisi to the fair in March.
Tabwa Ancestor Figure mikisi
Height 34.6 cm (13.6 in.)
Southeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and northeastern Zambia
early 20th century