Taabwa), Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia
Female ancestor figure (mipasi). Two hundred thousand Tabwa occupy the
west coast of Lake Tanganyika and some part of the northeastern Zambia. They are led by chiefs-sorcerers who rule over
village chiefs and family chiefs. Traditionally, Tabwa people made their living from
hunting and blacksmithing; nowadays they
cultivate millet, manioc, and corn, but they live primarily off fishing and hunting.
The Tabwa carved wooden figures to represent ancestors, great shamanistic healers and
earth spirits. Called mipasi or mikisi, such figures were kept by lineage
elders in special buildings within their components, where the elders sometimes slept to
receive ancestral inspiration in their dreams. The figures had powers to heal and protect.
The mipasi might be placed near a sick person, or at the entrance to the village as
a silent sentinel: they might be deployed in litigation, to ensure that a defendant told
the truth, or placed near blacksmiths forges or on hunting shrines, to keep evil
forces from disrupting the processes of work. The lower part of the figures body is
made from a kind of gourd.
Material: wood, gourd
Size: H. 28, W, 7, D.