Books > Arts & Architecture > History of art / art & design styles > Art styles not limited by date > Art of indigenous peoples
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Expressing one of many Luba sub-styles, the tall, standing male
figures created by master carvers of the Hemba culture in
southeastern Congo since at least the mid-1800s arguably rank among
the noblest sculptural depictions of the human figure in
sub-Saharan Africa. With their serene gaze and meditative
expression, they exude a tranquility and dignity that befits these
idealised likenesses memorialising esteemed leaders of the past.
Infused with a life-force or vital energy, these spirit-invested
objects were able to communicate between the living and the dead.
Thanks to their inner power they had the capacity to impact the
material sphere by allowing the ancestors to positively influence
the well-being of their surviving relatives. In this publication,
through the perceptive lens of art photographer Luigi Spina, we
discover nine of the most accomplished Hemba creations whose
classical style has triggered comparisons with some kouroi
sculptures of ancient Greece. Spina's photographic interpretations
help us understand why these proportionally balanced and
symmetrically conceived ancestral figures have earned the
admiration of African art lovers around the world. These personal
readings of the beloved Hemba commemorative portraits also confirm
why these sensitive renderings of the human anatomy deserve
inclusion in the universal history of artistic creativity and a
place in Andre Malraux's 'Museum Without Walls'. Text in English
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