TRIBAL AFRICAN ART

ZOMBO (also see related Yaka)

Living near the border with Angola, along the Inkisi River (Democratic Republic of the Congo), the 15,000 Zombo are historically linked with the Kongo kingdom, but during the 18th century they broke away and enlarged their territories at the expense of the Yaka people. At that time, they gained a reputation as traders in commercial goods and slaves and served as intermediaries between the coastal-dwelling Portuguese and the interior. With the abolition of the slave trade in the 19th century, their economy collapsed and their power vanished. Today they are led by several land chiefs who are assisted by village chiefs, usually the oldest person from the oldest family. The Zombo economy is now based on hunting and farming.

Their statues have naturalistic features, probably influenced by Kongo art, but the general morphology of their sculptures relates to Yaka artistic tradition. Small and large fetish figures adorned with paraphernalia and with a realistic face were used for healing, protecting and bringing good fortune to their owner. Slit gongs were used by diviners; helmet masks with large globular eyes and a high coiffure were worn during circumcision ceremonies. (Adapted from J.-B. Bacquart, 1998)

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