Ritual Messengers

The Peoples of Central Africa

Ofika figure. Mbole. Upper Zaïre. Wood, pigments.
© Africa-Museum, Tervuren

  The Mbole

Like the bukota of the Metoko and the bwami of the Lega, the Mbole lilwa society has an educational and socio-political purpose. The ofika statue represents a person who was hanged for breaking the laws of lilwa and upsetting public order. This type of figure is also associated with the practice of collecting body fluids — by suspending the body from a pole — from high-ranking lilwa members. The fluids are then used to transmit, by way of a ritual anointing, the vital force from the deceased to his successor.

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