A fine Yombe maternity figure, Democratic Republic of the Congo
- height 13 1/8 in. 33.2 cm
John J. Klejman, New York
Acquired from the above on January 3, 1975
The Rosenthal phemba has been classified by Lehuard (vol. II, 1989: 582) as a masterful example of the rare Yombe sub-style K 7. For another figure by the same hand in the Musée Royale de l'Afrique Centrale, Tervuren see id. (loc. cit., 582, fig. K 7-1-1).
Yombe maternity figures were used in association with women's cults. The iconography of the so-called phemba figures, a cross-legged woman in upright position, holding an infant and facing to the front, has two variants: first, the mother holding a living infant, possibly as a metaphor for the fertility of the people and the land; second, with the mother holding a dead infant as a symbol for the dignity and contemplation of the matriarch.