Thursday, October 30, 2014

Mvuala Description

Figure 1 Mvuala (staff handle). Angola/Democratic Republic
of Congo, Solongo. 19th or 20th century CE. Ivory, height 41/4"
(11 cm). Private Collection, Brussels
The Mvuala is carved ivory that is meant to be a handle for a staff. This type of staff would belong to a chief from Central Africa. This staff would be passed down from generation to generation and would suggest a political power. It is not the reasoning behind the ceremony, but rather the initiation ceremonies are symbolized by a staff similar to the one pictured.  If the ancestors did not pass down their reign there would be no staff.

The staff appears to be a woman because of fertility. The staff is passed from one generation to the next and new generations would not be produced if it weren't for women. Central Africa cares vastly about fertility and appreciates their women and their ability to bestow children.  The figure on top of the staff has its hands resting on its thighs to represent obedience. It's texture is smooth in order to capture the softness of human flesh. Also, the head is turned over the shoulder to signify watchfulness. These attributions are claimed by the staff's new owner. 


Kampen O'Riley, Michael. "Africa. In Art Beyond the West, 245. 2nd ed. 
       Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006

The image is from the book described above.

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