By Carla Herling
Drake University (formerly University of Iowa)

Democratic Republic of the Congo and Central African Republic; Banja (Manja, Manza) peoples


Wood, beads 

H. 32.7 cm (12 7/8")

University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection, X1990.639

Across northern Democratic Republic of the Congo several peoples carve representations of creator gods that are intended to increase human fertility.  This figure from the Manja people is used both to promote childbirth and ease in the childbirth process.  It may represent Ngakola, the primary deity of the Manja, who is responsible for all positive and negative things that happen in life. Ngakola’s wife is directly involved with fertility, aiding women who are thought to be sterile and protecting others from difficult childbirth.  This type of small figure may be placed next to the beds of Manja women desiring children, to strengthen their prayers.