Female sculpture, 1880
About the object
The female figure, carved from light wood and partly painted black, is part of a pair of figures. The figure’s oval open mouth with pointed teeth is striking.
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Replete with open mouths, pointed teeth and angled arms, the figures are highly expressive. Both figures are naked, with pronounced sexual characteristics. Parts of the body are painted with black paint. The rows of dots and strokes, especially on the face, suggest a reproduction of tattooing. Origin and function of the figures remain a mystery. They arrived at the museum in 1899 together with an extensive collection belonging to a Captain Heldt, who commanded ships of the Woermann line in the late-19th and early-20th century and clearly collected ethnographica as a sideline as well. An inventory entry made in the 1940s states Bafurunga, Congo as the ethnos of origin. This probably refers to the Bafourou (Bafuru, Afuru), a Bantu people who lived mainly from fishing along the Sangha, a right tributary of the Congo in the border region between Cameroon and Congo. They became famous for their resistance to the expedition of Count Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza in 1877/78. This pair of figures was probably carved for sale to Europeans. Author: Eva Gerhards, Translation: Timothy Connell
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Gerhards, Eva; Dürrenberger, Edgar: Als Freiburg die Welt entdeckte. 100 Jahre Museum für Völkerkunde ; [Sonderausstellung zur Hundertjahrfeier der Museen für Naturkunde und Völkerkunde Freiburg vom 31. März bis 26. Oktober 1995]. , S. 224 S., S. 26.