Death and Rebirth

By Christopher D. Roy
University of Iowa

Democratic Republic of the Congo; Tabwa peoples

Mipasi (ancestor figure)


H. 41.9 cm (16.5")

University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection, X1986.559

It is particularly important to understand that among most African peoples death is both an ending and a beginning, for just as the death of plants at harvest each year signals the end of the agricultural cycle of one year and the rebirth of life to begin the next cycle, many Africans believe that death leads to renewed life, especially for those who die young without children and are to be reborn into the next generation.  The result is that the conclusion of this chapter leads directly to the discussion of art used for birth and continuity.  The Tabwa people of eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo create ancestor figures that bear scars associated with Tabwa world-view.  The hairline is divided down the middle to represent mulalambo, ("where the buffalo sleeps") a ridgeline or watershed that defines symmetry and balance in life.