Dating in kongo
Kongo ivories reflect the dynamics of artistic expression and social history among peoples throughout west-central Africa’s Lower Congo region who trace their heritage to the Kingdom of Kongo.In this region, ivory was a precious commodity that was strictly controlled by Kongo chiefs and kings.These leaders commissioned expert sculptors to produce fine ivory sculptures for their personal and courtly use.With the rise of the transatlantic trade through the seventeenth into nineteenth centuries, ivory became among the most valuable African natural resources desired by Western industry.Relentless demand for ivory dramatically diminished African elephant (Loxodonta africana) populations.As early as the mid-seventeenth century, elephants were extinct along the West African coast, forcing hunting and trade caravans further and further inland in search of ivory.The corpus of Kongo ivories dating from the sixteenth to early twentieth century demonstrates Kongo sculptors’ adaptability in providing artworks of great artistic accomplishment for both indigenous and foreign clients.
The tremendous size of African elephant tusks, at as large as about 225 lbs.
The summits of these scepters are sometimes covered or filled with a mixture of clay-packed medicinal herbs that served to reinforce a leader’s spiritual power.
The important practice of adding medicines with sacred significance to Kongo sculptures is most vividly evident on Kongo power figures (minkisi) (1979.206.127).
Afro-Portuguese ivories reflect both indigenous African and Renaissance European visual elements.
The finely chiseled geometric patterns that embellish the surface of Kongo oliphants echo similar designs on embroidered Kongo textiles made from palm fibers.