Hemba Wooden Caryatid Stool

SKU PF.4538

20th Century AD


15″ (38.1cm) high x 11.125″ (28.3cm) wide




Southeastern Congo

Gallery Location



The Hemba come from Southeast Zaire. The social system of the Hemba is based on a system of clans. Each clan is made up of several families, which all share a common ancestor. Each clan adheres to a number of rules, obligations and taboos. Each clan also has a thorough knowledge of its history, migrations, conquests and alliances. Sometimes a whole clan is a village separate from other villages.
Stools are to lift the body off the ground. If you are an important person you do not sit on the ground, you sit on a stool. The stool signifies that the person seated on it should receive respect. Stools which use ‘carved’ people to hold up the seat reflect back to the days when important people used human slaves as seats.
This beautiful and elaborately carved wooden stool is a perfect example of Hemba creativity. The seat of the stool is held up by a female figure. She is bold and strong, carved with confidence. Her arms are raised skyward to touch the base of the seat which is balanced on her head. This particular stool was used for the circumcision of young girls, a ritual which passed them into womanhood. She represents the ideal woman, elongated breasts, protruding stomach of a fertile figure. She is a model for the young girls passing into womanhood. She is kneeling on the ground with her arms raised as if she is about to bend in worship or pray. This stool is a glorious example of its kind , its fascinating use and strong example of Hemba art make it a unique piece for any collection, or a solitary example standing boldly on its own.

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