Democratic Republic of Congo
10″ Tall (25.4 cm)
Private Estate Collection – California, USA.
A male Bena Lulua figure with a horn-surmounted domed head, a trance-like expression, a columnar neck, arms framing his body, thick, straight legs. The neck is adorned in interlocking low relief cicatrices, with random scarifications on the expansive forehead, face, and abdomen. This male figure uncharacteristically holds out an infant (instead of weapons) in his hands. Fine, encrusted, dark patina.
The Lulua people (var. Luluwa) are a Bantu-speaking ethnic group of the Lulua River valley in south-central Kasai-Occidental province, Democratic Republic of the Congo, closely related to the Luba people. The Lulua are in fact a collection of small groups whose home bordered by the larger Luba state and the related Songye people and Chokwe people, with whom they share a very similar culture, history, and language. Lulua arts are highly prized in the international collectors market. Lulua carved wood figures are identified with a distinctive and extensive portrayal of scarification patterns (despite the fact that Lulua scarification traditions largely died out in the 19th century.
Carved figures serve a number of spiritual and decorative roles and are known for their refined artistry, while Lulua wooden masks are confined to secret society rituals and are made to be disposed of after use.