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Figure of a Mother Holding a Child (Lupingu lwa Cibola)

Arts of Africa

Both of these very different Congolese works are deeply emotional expressions. One was commissioned to resolve a personal trauma, while the other represents a viscerally remembered social upheaval from the colonial era.

Figures like this mother and child were believed to offer protection, through the intervention of spirits, by the Bwanga Bwa Cibola society. When a woman lost successive children through miscarriages or early infant death, she could be initiated into the society to protect herself from ominous forces suspected to be the cause of the deaths. This emotionally gripping figure is considered to be one of the great masterpieces of African art.

Tshibumba's painting depicts the slaughter of striking mineworkers in Lubumbashi at the order of the Belgian colonial government on December 9, 1941. The artist critiques the institutions complicit in the colonial system: Belgium (represented by the flag), the church, the mining company, the colonial governor (with arm raised), and the Congolese soldiers in the colonial army. Following independence in 1960, a market for narrative painting developed among urban Congolese who were working in mining factories and living in new, Western-style homes.
MEDIUM Wood, copper alloy, palm oil, tukula, organic materials
DATES 19th century
DIMENSIONS 14 x 3 3/8 x 3 1/2 in. (35.6 x 8.6 x 8.9 cm)  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
CREDIT LINE Museum Collection Fund
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION A wood maternity figure of a woman holding a child which twists her arms. The face of the woman shows elaborate scarification. Below the chest the body is not well defined and narrows considerably. The navel is quite prominent but the remainder of the figure is like a staff. There is no indication of the legs etc.
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Lulua. Figure of a Mother Holding a Child (Lupingu lwa Cibola), 19th century. Wood, copper alloy, palm oil, tukula, organic materials, 14 x 3 3/8 x 3 1/2 in. (35.6 x 8.6 x 8.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Collection Fund, 50.124. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 50.124_view2_SL4.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 50.124_view2_SL4.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2014
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