TRIBAL AFRICAN ART

MBOLE (BAMBOLE)

The Mbole are known principally for their figures known as ofika which tend to be categorized by their geometric features, elongated emaciated bodies, enlarged heads with heart-shaped faces, protruding mouths and crown-like coiffures. The shoulders and arms seem inert and uncontrolled. White pigment is applied to the face of the statue. Ofika figures represent men or women who were hanged for transgressing the moral and legal laws of the lilwa. Such figures were shown to youths during their initiation into the association to illustrate the consequence of immoral conduct and also to instill in them respect for the authority vested in elders and ranking lilwa members. An initiation was given to young boys who had already learned to fish (taught by women) and farm (taught by men). The children would be taken into the bush to develop their qualities of endurance, courage, loyalty, and discipline; they underwent trials of fasting and learned the language of the lilwa and its secrets. Abstract, polychrome masks were used during the closing rite, when the statues would be ceremonially brought out. The figures symbolized the power and authority of the lilwa and were the exclusive prerogative of high-ranking members. Ofika were displayed on other solemn occasions, such as during executions by hanging, during periods of persistent bad hunting, when oaths were taken, and when serious conflicts between parties were settled. Each ofika bears the name of a hanged individual.

761mbole.jpg (10684 bytes)