Yombe Ivory Pfemba Sculpture - PF.4258
Origin: Southwestern Congo
Circa: 19 th Century AD to 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 6.25" (15.9cm) high x 2.5" (6.4cm) wide
Collection: African
Style: Yombe
Medium: Ivory


Maternity figures (Pfemba) are thought to have come from the ancient kingdom of Mani. They exemplify three important qualities – creative force, social hierarchy and idealized beauty. Though quite small in size, this figure has great intensity and presence. The head is large in comparison with the body, with five triangles in a checkerboard pattern representing a coiffure or body painting. Facial features are quite detailed, pinprick holes in the eyes give life and movement. The mouth is open wide with exposed teeth. She wears a thick necklace and bracelets. Her breasts are naturally prominent and nearly touch the mouth of the sleeping infant who rests comfortably on her lap. Crossed legs make a perfect cradle, and an attractive stylistic form juxtaposed to the striated base. Given the fact that ivory was a material only afforded by the wealthy elite, coupled with the ornamentation the woman wears, suggests that she might have been one of the royal wives. Royal or not, she is a beautifully carved and noble figure with a purity and simplicity appreciated by all cultures. - (PF.4258)



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