Elderhood

By Christopher D. Roy
University of Iowa

Democratic Republic of the Congo; Pende peoples

Cane

Wood

H. 85 cm (33 1/2")

The University of Iowa Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection, X1986.205

Among the visible signs of the respect that is accorded to elders are the canes they often carry and that serve as metaphors for the power they wield.  Such canes have even been appropriated by contemporary political leaders such as Mobutu Sese Seko of Democratic Republic of the Congo as symbols of power.  The Pende cane was passed among those who gathered to debate important issues, and only the person who held the cane had the right to speak. Elders are responsible for passing on their knowledge to the next generation and so they are shown respect by those who stand to profit from this privileged knowledge.  They are the possessors of the secrets of the group that are the keys to the survival of the next generation.