Ritual Messengers

The Peoples of Central Africa

Female figure. OviMbundu. Benguela, Angola. Wood, fibre, brass, tin.
© Africa-Museum, Tervuren

  The OviMbundu

The OviMbundu, who occupy the Benguela plateau in Angola, are the little-known neighbours of the Tshokwe and, like them, belong to the vast cultural area dominated by the great Luunda families, as the myths about the foundation of their kingdoms and chiefdoms testify. In most of these narratives, the founding hero is a hunter.

The Tervuren Museum's OviMbundu collection, made up of nearly 140 objects compiled and clearly identified in 1949 by Robert Verly in Angola, is one of the most important in the world. Brief descriptions accompanied the objects brought into Belgium. We know, for instance, that the female figure with hair made out of antelope skin bears the name ociteka, and that she was associated with the hunt. The precise ritual function of this striking sculpture, however, is still not known. The other figure, with a proud look, was discovered in a chief's court and is an example of what Verly calls "royal art." The OviMbundu's female representations and anthropomorphic staffs are distinguishable above all by their elegant braided hairstyles and the delicate realism of their facial features.

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