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Fly Whisk

African Art

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Fly Whisk

Artwork Details

Artist/Maker

Kongo Artist, Vili Region
Democratic Republic of the Congo or Republic of the Congo

Date

nineteenth century or earlier

Medium

Wood, hair, and raffia

Accession #

1984.308

Dimensions

13¾ x 2 x 2 inches

Location

Currently Not on View

Description

This fly whisk was used as an emblem of political office. Its smooth, worn surfaces show signs of extensive use. Delicate metalwork ornaments the figure’s face, repeating the same sign at the center of her forehead and at both temples. These four points mark the Dikenga, the Kongo cosmogram that charts the never-ending cycle of life. Moving counterclockwise, the point at three o’clock indicates birth, twelve o’clock indicates prime of life, nine o’clock indicates the role of the elders, and six o’clock refers to the realm of the ancestors.

Credit

Fred and Rita Richman Collection