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Kissi Soapstone Pombo Sculpture of a Crouching Man - PF.6152
Origin: Guinea/Sierra Leone
Circa: 16 th Century AD to 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 10.25" (26.0cm) high
Collection: African
Style: Kissi
Medium: Soapstone

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The Kissi people revere stone anthropomorphic carvings found in fields and rivers in an area located around the Sewa and Mano Rivers. They are called Pombo, meaning “the deceased.” These carvings are extremely old and it was not until 1959 that Western scholars associated them with the so-called Afro-Portuguese ivory objects carved by artists of the Sapi kingdom. Although the Sapi kingdom collapsed in the 16th century, their art survived buried beneath the ground. Occasionally, these ancient works would be accidentally unearthed, usually through flooding or farming. Kissi artists would often rework the Sapi sculptures, resulting in a multitude of variations of types and styles. This sculpture depicts an elongated, seated figure resting his head in his hands. The intricacy of the carving is remarkable for such works, specifically the finely detailed hairs of his eyebrows and the diagonal grid patterns that decorate his upper arms. Interestingly, his eyes feature slanted incisions, perhaps representing that his eyes are clenched close. Pombo sculptures were believed to house ancient spirits. According to Kissi belief, these sculptures acted as intermediaries between the living and their deceased ancestors. They would be worshiped on small altars or in deep bowls. This sculpture, a literal relic of the past, continues to communicate with the lost world left behind. Magically unearthed, it is a gift from the past to the present. Surely, this sculpture was as revered by the Kissi villagers who discovered it as by the Sapi artists who crafted it. - (PF.6152)

 

 

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