A fine Yombe maternity figure, Democratic Republic of the Congo
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.