Teke Fetish - Itio, buti
Country: DR Congo.
Date: early 20th century.
Medium: wood, clay and sand.
Size: h. 35 cm (13 ¾ in.).
ex Abla and Alain Lecomte, Paris.
ex Lars and Annabel Olsen, Copenhagen.
Literature: for a similar example “Les arts Bateke”, Raoul Lehuard, p. 275, fig. 12.2.1.
Extra: Originally from the left side of the Congo river, the Teke people, occupied the territories North of Congo up to the Gabon area and beyond the river into the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the Kinshasa area.
This barbed fetish (35 cm high) wears a brimmed hat with central crest and displays the evenly spaced vertical lines of traditional Teke scarification (mbandjuala) and the conical bilongo, made of sand and clay, containing the original magical substances.
Teke magical statuettes, predominantly showing male attributes, are hard to compartmentalise inside precise categories. Because only the recipient of the sculptures and the one who materially created them were able to understand their intrinsic power and their ultimate destination and use. We are aware of two kinds of statuettes connected to the ancestor cult (defined as biteki, bitegue or itio): those which had been consecrated, and which physically represented the ancestor (buti) and those which weren’t given either relics or accessories (nkiba).
Photo credit: © Jean Godecharle.
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