African Art

Bowlbearing Figure (Mboko)

late 19th century

Wood

12 1/2 x 12 1/2 x 14 1/4 in. (31.8 x 31.8 x 36.2 cm)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James M. Osborn for the Linton Collection of African Art
1954.28.26
The idealized naturalism, the harmony of volumes and curves, and rich sheen of this piece are characteristic of Luba carvings.  Bowl-bearing figures were part of the royal treasures and also belonged to royal diviners. They honor and remember the first mythical diviner, whose clairvoyance helped the first Luba king ascend to power. At their doors, rulers could have kept bowls like this filled with sacred white chalk associated with purity, renewal, and the spirit world. Royal diviners used them as vehicles for their rituals. The female figure represents the wife of the possessing spirit and alludes to the diviner’s actual wife as an intermediary.
Culture: 
Luba
Period: 
19th century
Classification: 
Containers - Wood
Geography: 
Made in Central Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Status: 
On view
Provenance: 

Acquired by Leo Frobenius during his Kongo expedition, 1904-1906.
Dr. Ralph Linton, Sterling Professor of Anthropology at Yale, unknown date–1953
Mr. and Mrs. James M. Osborn donated to Yale University Art Gallery for the Linton Collection of African Art in 1954

Bibliography: 

Susan B. Matheson, Art for Yale: A History of the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2001), 162–63, fig. 159.

Frederick John Lamp, “Hot Space, Cool Space: The Reinstallation of the African Art Collection in the Louis Kahn Building at Yale University,” African Arts 40 (Summer 2007): 51, fig. 29.

John Pemberton III, Crosscurrents: Art of the Southeastern Congo, exh. cat. (Northampton, Mass.: Smith College Museum of Art, 2011), 45, no. 32.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.