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Kabeja Figure, 19th century
Gift of Julian and Irma Brody. In the permanent collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Likely created by the Hemba people of the now Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kabeja figures represent a male and female figure standing back-to-back. Interpretations vary, but they are believed to represent ancestral beings akin to an origin story. The cavity at the top is meant to hold ceremonial ingredients or offerings, with the object itself aiding in ceremonial practices. How do figures represent ancestry, and reverence to the past? How does this depiction of male and female form portraying original ancestors appear in cultures across the globe?