The Okifa depicts a man sentenced to death by hanging. The surface of this fine Mbole figure (Okifa),carved from hardwood, has been coloured black and white.
Ex Jo De Buck Collection, Belgium
Ex Private Collection, Germany
Among the Mbole,in northern Congo, the secret society called ‘Lilwa’ is in charge of social life and jurisdiction. The ‘Lilwa society’ also has the power to impose death sentences, especially in connection with the offence of betraying secrets of the ‘Lilwa society’. Typical features of the image of the hanged person are protruding shoulders and ‘hanging’, rather than standing, feet.
These Okifa figures play an essential role during the initiation of young Mbole men. They are preserved in special huts in the woods, in the vicinity of the initiates’ bush camp. This is because the Okifa are not memorial figures depicting criminals who were actually hanged, but are a warning and deterrent and serve 'educational purposes’. They vividly show young initiates what would happen to them in case they violate the prescriptions and the laws of the ‘Lilwa society’.
Kerchache, Paudrat, Stephan, ‘Die Kunst des schwarzen Afrika’
Robbins & Nooter, ‘African Art in American Collections’
Jean-Baptiste Bacquart, ‘The Tribal Arts of Africa’ by Jean-Baptiste Bacquart
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