Mambila Shrine Figure
Mambila Shrine Figure
Mambila people, 20th century, Cameroon, Central Africa
Unusual smaller power figure features a stylized ancestor head with mysterious animal (dog?) figure made of terracotta, lashed together with twine, fabric, feathers, magical ingredients and gourd. This exquisite power figure is probably related to the sacred Ga’anda Cult and the shrines where the larger terracotta vessels were often placed. The surface has accumulate sacrificial materials over time, including sacrifical mud, and alcohol beverages like beer.
The Mambila people (in Nigeria called Mambilla) live on both sides of the Nigeria and Cameroon border, most of them on the Mambila plateau in Nigeria. A smaller number live in Cameroon, especially at the foot of the Mambila Plateau escarpment, on the Tikar Plain. Cameroonian Mambila have adopted the Tikar institution of the chiefship. Nigerian Mambila did not have the same type of institutionalized chiefship as is found in Cameroon. The Mambila live in small, localized family hamlets. The houses of the compound are normally built around a central courtyard, which is kept cleared except for a small section in the middle where plants having magical powers grow. The majority of these are said to defend the compound against witches. Traditional Mambila religion includes witchcraft, spider or crab divination (ngam), and rituals relating to lunar cycles. The people are governed by priests whose laws come from the gods. Although the Mambila believe in a creative god (càng or nama), they only worship their ancestors. When someone dies, they believe his spirit leaves the body and is then banished from the house into the bush (tandalu), becoming a "spirit of the bush" (càng tandalu). Their leaders were buried in attics like wheat because they were supposed to symbolize prosperity.
Most of the Mambila art centers upon an healing association called Sùàgà (or Sua). The society is concerned with justice, fertility, ritual cleansing and, also defending the community from hostile neighbors and protecting it from witchcraft. The wooden figures (Tadep) are perhaps the most common type of sculptures in Mambila art. Figurative vessels crafted by the Mambila people in Cameroon are high detailed, expressive vessels that could almost be passed off as figurative sculptures, except they are clearly containers made to be filled with substances such as water, food or medicine. In addition, they could also be filled with spiritual elements such as souls, life energy or healing powers.
Power figure are in good condition. Age-related wear. Cracks and fractures. Signs of libations. Size approx. 15,5cm x 13,5cm x 14,0cm.
Provenance: Dutch private collection
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