By Carla Herling
Drake University (formerly University of Iowa)

Democratic Republic of the Congo; Kusu peoples

Kabeja (power figure)

Wood, horn, metal tacks and nails, empowered materials

H. 32.5 cm (12 7/8")

University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection, X1986.583

Elsewhere in Democratic Republic of the Congo the desire for healthy and well-formed children is expressed by a pan-ethnic association found among the Luba, Songye, and Kusu, which uses figures called kabeja.  The figures are imbued with power through the addition of medicine in horns on top of the head or in recesses in the abdomen to prevent disease and malformation in infants.  The major theme of these figures is the male/female duality of nature and the dependence of the coupling of these two forces to permit procreation.