Art and Initiation Among the Yaka and Suku

by Arthur Bourgeois
Professor Emeritus, Governors State University

Biteke (Yaka figures) for the treatment of a hereditary curse, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1976. Photo by Arthur Bourgeois.


Biteke (Yaka figures) are used to support or contain special concoctions for the treatment of a hereditary curse that has entered a lineage blood line.  Originally the mbwoolo curse enters a lineage through the theft of some object placed under the charm's protection and becomes a hereditary affliction destined to reappear in future members.  Its curative capacity can be induced by the one who first invoked the mbwoolo curse or by a special ritual practitioner qualified to activate it.  Influence of this curse can "make-ill" or "make well."