Created in the nineteenth century by an unknown Lulua artist, the Figure of a Mother Holding a Child is a very interesting sculpture because there are multiple ways of understanding its import. On one hand, the sculpture is a perfect depiction of the pain of starvation that the African people have been experiencing for a long time, and that nobody outside of Africa has done anything consequential about – despite the fact that the entire world discusses it. On the other hand, it represents a ritual that the Lulua tribe of the Democratic Republic of Congo had practiced for its own survival (“Figure of a Mother Holding a Child”).
The sculpture is that of a skinny, African female with an infant in her arms. The woman’s head is larger than her body. The bone lines on her neck are particularly telling. Even so, the bone lines on her neck and the wrinkles on her face had actually been created by the artist to show that the Lulua peoples had used scarification to adorn their bodies (“Lulua Tribe: Democratic Republic of Congo;” “Figure of a Mother Holding a Child”). Indeed, it is scarification that adorns the woman carrying the infant.
Just the same the viewer is made to feel sorry for the woman and her child because they appear extremely poor. Made with wood and copper alloy, the woman in the sculpture has bulging eyes and a “pointed base (“Figure of a Mother Holding a Child”). ” According to the Brooklyn Museum, the base was most probably “thrust into a pot containing earth and various bishimba, or materials of mineral, plant, animal, or human origin endowed with protective powers (“Figure of a Mother Holding a Child”).
” In actuality, the sculpture had been created for a Lulua woman who had experienced difficulties in childbirth. The Lulua people believed that it was the evil spirit which interrupted the process of childbirth for many women. So that the woman would attract the ancestral spirit of the Lulua tribe to get rid of the evil spirit, the artist gave her the sculpture to care for until delivery. The bulging eyes of the sculpture reveal that the woman is aware of the influence of the evil spirit that is stopping her from becoming a mother (“Lulua Tribe”).
The Lulua peoples had migrated from western Africa to the Democratic Republic of Congo during the eighteenth century. These people lived in “small regional chiefdoms,” and therefore formed closely knit communities (“Lulua Tribe”). Because they were immigrants, they were rather concerned about their continuity. Moreover, the Lulua people believed that their sculptures had to be made for religious reasons (“Lulua Tribe”). The Lulua artists who created sculptures such as the Figure of a Mother Holding a Child must have had faith that they were carrying out their moral duty toward their own people.
Indeed, the religious values of the Lulua people were guarded by their art. Sculptures of female were quite popular among them, as these figures exemplified “the union of physical and moral beautify (“Figurative Sculpture”). ” The Lulua people believed in equating proper behavior with physical beauty (“Figurative Sculpture”). It can be inferred that the Figure of a Mother Holding a Child and all other sculptures created for the same reason were reminders for the Lulua people that the human body cannot be separated from morality.
This principle is clearly exemplified by the bond between mother and child. Works Cited “Figurative Sculpture. ” Central African Art. 4 Dec 2007. <http://africa. si. edu/exhibits/journey/figurative. html>. “Figure of a Mother Holding a Child. ” Brooklyn Museum Collections: African Art. 4 Dec 2007. <http://www. brooklynmuseum. org/collections/african_art/50. 124. php>. “Lulua Tribe: Democratic Republic of Congo. ” For African Art. 2006. 4 Dec 2007. <http://www. forafricanart. com/Lulua_ep_56-1. html>.