In 2001, within this corpus, Bernard de Grunne identified the hand of a Master from the village of Fizi, near Lake Tanganyika, defined as "the most accomplished, probably that of a very great master" (de Grunne, Mains de Maîtres, 2001, p. 184). This artist produced an identifiable corpus of seven works of art: the figure published in Primitivism, the one held in the Daniel and Marian Malcolm collection (Schweizer, Visions of Grace, 2013, p.24, No. 94), the figures present in the Fowler Museum collections (Vogel, Perspectives: Angles on African Art, 1987, p. 58) and the Cleveland Museum of Art (inv. n° 1969.10), the one held in the Jernander collection and published by Marie-Louise Bastin in 1984 (Introduction aux Arts d’Afrique Noire, n° 381), the one long held in the Walter and Molly Bareiss collection (Neyt, Arts traditionnels et histoire au Zaïre, 1981, p. 304-305) and, lastly, the statue sold at auction by Sotheby’s on 24 June 1985 (No.56). The Sikasingo masterpiece, rediscovered in the Z Collection, now completes the work of this great master.
Each of these sculptures is structured according to the same canon: "a powerful body with a thick, cylindrical torso, very compact legs, arms figured in cut-out segments and a bulging volume where the shoulders jut forwards" (de Grunne, ibid). The exaggerated elongation of the torso guides the viewer’s eye towards the face of the figure, figured as an inverted triangle framed by a crenelated beard and topped off by a coiffure made up of deeply carved parallel grooves. Far from the naturalist style of the neighbouring Luba and Hemba, Sikasingo artists developed a geometric, quasi-architectural style, tending towards abstractionism, as they invented new solutions to represent the human figure, thus asserting their style as "one of the most structured expressions of African Art” (Germain, “La statuaire des Basikasingo” in Arts d’Afrique Noire, No.108, Winter 1998, p. 45).
Within this corpus, the Z Collection figure stands out for the balance achieved between the force of its outlines and the harmony of its volumes, emphasised by its deep patina of use. The intricately sculpted spine accentuates the vertical momentum of the elongated sculpture whilst bolstering its symmetry. Through this structured composition the artist imbues his work with flexibility and movement, yet retains the monumental stability of the figure. But the virtuosity of the Master of Fizi reaches the fullness of its expression in the treatment of the head. Less prognathic than on certain other pieces of the corpus, the face sits perfectly within the frame of the shoulders and is emphasized by the subtly figured clavicles. The crenelated beard tapers into a small band that delineates the coiffure, highlighting the extraordinary sense of balance of the facial features and strengthening the visual impact of the face.
An imperious celebration of a primordial ancestor, the Sikasingo figure, rediscovered in the Z collection, stands out as one of the masterpieces by the Master of Fizi, a major artist who produced a corpus embodying the subtle balance between naturalism and abstraction, a feature which led all the avant-garde currents of the twentieth century.
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