jueves, 27 de agosto de 2009

Sculpture: Songye sculpture - Esculturas Songye


The Songye people are a tribal group based in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire). They were founded in the 16th century following an exodus from the neighbouring Shaba area, settling near to the Lualuba River. There are around 150,000 Songye divided into sub-groupings that are under the governorship of a central chief known as the Yakitenge. More local governance is in the hands of chiefs known as Sultani Ya Muti. Their economy is based upon agriculture and pastoralism.

The Songye are perhaps best known for their artworks, which are both institutional and domestic/personal in nature. These include wooden figures that are usually decorated with feathers and other organic materials, and which are known as Bishimba. In the widest of terms, the figures are stocky with elongated torsos, shortened legs, short arms resting on the breast/stomach, an oversized head and closed, almond-shaped eyes. Many pieces bear an animal horn projecting from the apex of the head. This, and the bulging stomach, hold materials that are believed to be magical - blessed by the "nganga" - and which give the figure its power. As the Songye live over a fairly large area, artistic styles are commensurately variable, and the geographical origin of Bishimba can usually be ascertained on the basis of the shape of the face, head position and the presence/extent of neck elongation. Most pieces are in wood although ivory figures are also known. Large-scale and important pieces are created for use by members of the Bwadi Bwa secret society - these include masks known as kifwebe (with highly distinctive faces covered in curvilinear decorations). Very large figures are also known - these are kept in miniature huts and are designed to protect the villagers from harm. Secular pieces such as staffs and tools are also often decorated with recognisably Songye motifs.

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