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Fly whisk
Date: Late 19th-early 20th century
Medium: Wood, hair, glass, glass beads, metal
Dimensions: H x W x D: 39.5 x 27 x 12cm (15 9/16 x 10 5/8 x 4 3/4 in.)
Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Harry A. McBride
Geography: Mayanga, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Object Number: 65-1-2
Search Terms:
Male use
Exhibited: Visionary: Viewpoints on Africa's Arts

This sculpture has many of the attributes associated with Kongo figures - the kneeling pose in a gesture of respect, the keloids on the upper chest and the breast band, and the glass inlaid eyes that offer a window into the spirit world. It was collected circa 1914 by Harry A. McBride when he was counsul in what was then the Belgian Congo. Originally catalogued as a figure, it has since been identified as a figural fly whisk from Mayanga, near Kinshasa.

Wood fly whisk in the form of a kneeling female figure on a square base, with open cylinder on head from which projects a tuft of hair (likely animal).The arms rest on the thights, and the body bears raised keloid scarification and a chest cord above the breasts. Glass bead necklace and metal earring adorn the neck and ear. However, only one earring is still present and damage to the ear betrays the possible existence of a second earring. Eyes have inset glass.

Mr. and Mrs. Harry A. McBride, Washington, D.C., acquired in the Belgian Congo, ca. 1914 to 1965

Visionary: Viewpoints on Africa's Arts, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., November 4, 2017-ongoing

University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Art Gallery. 1970. African Art. Amherst: University of Massachusetts, p. 40, no. 94.

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