Amulet - Dengese or Kuba

The Dengese and their Kuba neighbors produce figures depicting high-ranking male authorities. Those of the Dengese portray the itoci, initiated men with powerful social status, while the Kuba works, called ndop, are idealized images of the king (nyim). In both instances, the subjects are often kneeling or seated (cross-legged, in the case of the Kuba) and are identified by their distinctive headdresses. The itoci headdress is quite flat, flaring back to both sides from the top of the forehead, and is surmounted by a type of horn or cylinder. The nyim wears a short, columnar crown with a forward-projecting shelf. These aesthetic similarities may be just one reflection of an intertwined political history shared by the Dengense and Kuba.

The characteristic images of itoci and ndop are echoed in this amulet, which shows an elongated head wearing a cap or coiffure out of which rises a truncated, inverted cone. It is possible this piece may have been worn by a dignitary as an accessory or insignia. This small carving displays a wonderful sculptural rhythm in a descending cascade of shelved forms from the top of the headdress past the ears, slipping smoothly down to a long, tapered point and stretching the lower half of the face with it. A group of subtle, encircling incisions adds a touch of detail at the “neck.” The features of the face and head are polished smooth from use, giving bright highlights over the dark patina.

19th century
Horn or bone
6 3/4 inches

Rick Gallagher, New York

Item Number:
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