Tag Archives: Boyo

Field-photo of the day: five ancestral figures from the shrine of the Boyo chief Kimano II (1956)

Ancestral figures from the shrine of the Basiatshiwa-Mwamuwa (Bahutshwe-Boyo). Chief Kimano II, Kabambare territory, Maniema. Photo by H. Goldstein, 1956.

Ancestral figures from the shrine of the Basiatshiwa-Mwamuwa (Bahutshwe-Boyo). Chief Kimano II, Kabambare territory, Maniema. Photo by H. Goldstein, 1956. Published in Beaulieux (Dick), “Belgium collects African Art”, Brussels, 2000: p. 94.

In 1956 Henri Goldstein was able to photograph this amazing group of ancestor figures among the Bahutshwe, one of the Boyo groups (also known as Buyu or Buye). These five statues were owned by chief Kimano II, who lived in the territory of Kabambare between the Lualaba River and Lake Tanganyika in southeastern Congo.

Map from de Kun (Nicolas), L'Art Boyo, 1979: p. 32, fig. 4 - showing the Northern Boyo area, with Kabambare in the lower left corner.

Map from de Kun (Nicolas), L’Art Boyo, Africa-Tervuren, no. 26, 1979: p. 32, fig. 4 – showing the Northern Boyo area.

Each wooden statue was given the name of the ancestor it represented and each such figurative group reflected the internal lineage structure of the local group. In this case, the largest statue (second from the left) represented Abikili, the oldest of the ancestors celebrated by the five images.

Two years after this photo was taken all five figures were collected by Nicolas de Kun (who also wrote an article on the art of the Boyo in 1979). Not much later the group was dispersed.

So, where are these figures now? The statue on the left is currently in the collection of the Metropolitain Museum of Art in New York (info), it was donated to the museum by Sidney and Bernice Clyman in 1985.

Height: 63 cm. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1985.410.1).

Height: 63 cm. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1985.410.1).

The biggest figure, second from left, could be the figure in the The Menil Collection in Houston – unfortunately I only found a frontal picture of it.

Height: 83 cm. Image courtesy of the Menil Collection (V9065).

Height: 83 cm. Image courtesy of the Menil Collection (V9065).

The middle figure is in the Richard Scheller collection and currently on view at the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco (info).

Height: 59,4 cm. Image courtesy of Richard Scheller.

Height: 59,4 cm. Image courtesy of Richard Scheller.

The second figure from the right is in private collection.

Height: 56 cm. Image courtesy of the collector.

Height: 56 cm. Image courtesy of the collector.

The figure on the right was sold by Sotheby’s in 1985 and currently in a private Belgian collection.

Heigh: 54,5 cm. Image courtesy of Sotheby's NY (14 November 1995, lot 190).

Heigh: 54,5 cm. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s NY (14 November 1995, lot 190).

 

The current location of all five figures is thus known. If someone could bring them together for an exhibition, that would be a wonderful thing to do. A bit like the current exhibition at the MET, Warriors and Mothers: Epic Mbembe Art, which reunites the group of Mbembe figures first shown by Hélène Leloup in 1974 (info).

 

Photo by H. Goldstein (Congopresse), 1956. Published in: Biebuyck (Daniel P.), Statuary from the pre-Bembe hunters, Tervuren, 1981: p. 36, fig. 21.

Photo by H. Goldstein (Congopresse), 1956. Published in: Biebuyck (Daniel P.), Statuary from the pre-Bembe hunters, Tervuren, 1981: p. 36, fig. 21.