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The University of Iowa University of Iowa

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.


In this shrine, one female and two male mbwoolo figures, a boat containing two ndedi (miniature charms), and several containers are displayed.  The container with projections is medicine for the tchio charm, an auxiliary institution to mbwoolo.  Other statuettes belonging to this series—that can number up to twenty or more in a single shrine—were temporarily on loan to lineage members.  The objects receive the empowering rays of each new moon, sacrifices are made and the repertoire of mbwoolu songs are sung.