Human

By Carla Herling
Drake University (formerly University of Iowa)

Democratic Republic of the Congo; Ngbaka (Bwaka, Bouaka, Gbaya, M'Baka) peoples

Figure

Wood

H. 45.72 cm (18")

The University of Iowa Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection, X1986.592

The Ngbaka in Democratic Republic of the Congo also carve figures to protect against miscarriage, and various medical and agricultural problems.  The figures are carved with accurate representations of Ngbaka scarification patterns on both their faces and backs.  These figures are thought to represent Setu, the Ngbaka creator, and his sister Nabo.  Male figures represent Setu, while female figures like this one portray Nabo.  According to Ngbaka cosmology, an incestuous union between Nabo and Setu generated the Ngbaka people.  These figures are commissioned by individuals to protect themselves and their families, rather than being used in a larger ritual association.  They are used in the household itself to protect against miscarriages, diseases, bad harvests and death.  In curing medical problems, the figures are combined with healing powders to activate their curing capabilities.