Ritual Messengers

The Peoples of Central Africa

| The Nkanu, Zombo, Yaka, Suku and Mbala | Yaka, Suku and Pindi Circumcision Masks |

Maternity statue. Zombo (?). Zombo plateau, Angola. Wood, brass, headed nails.
© Africa-Museum, Tervuren

  The Nkanu, Zombo, Yaka, Suku and Mbala

These ethnic groups live in the so-called "Kwango" region and follow similar practices with regard to social structure, divining, healing rituals and the initiation of boys. Most of the sculptures on display from this cultural area are associated with such practices. The Yaka and Suku share a cultural heritage; their differences are a result of historical events that shaped their respective political and territorial fortunes. The Zombo, whose statues are known for their fine, lifelike features, and the Nkanu, known for their polychrome sculptures, came under the cultural influence of the Yaka. The Mbala, with a style akin to that of the Yaka, are known primarily for their representations of drummers.

The combs, headrests and fly whisks attributed to these groups are without doubt chiefs' and elders' emblems of power. Their anthropomorphic figures are more ambiguous. Most of those shown are ritual objects that protect against misfortune or sickness, using powers associated with ancestral spirits. In addition, because chiefs are often seen to be responsible for a country's fertility and the prosperity of its people, some of their figures may also possess political power, for example, the female figure, wrongly identified as a hermaphrodite, or the Mbala drummer. This type of drummer figure is traditionally accompanied by a female figure (usually a mother with child). The couple or pair are called pindi, and play an important role in the enthronement of a chief.

main page previous index next