Photo © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem

Anthropomorphic coffin
Late 19th – early 20th century
Ngata people, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Wood, pigment, fibers
H: 168; W: 32; TH: 18.5 cm
Gift of Victor Teicher and Hedi-Ann Lieberman, Westport, Connecticut, to American Friends of the Israel Museum
Accession number: B04.1399
All sculpture made among the Ngata is related to their elaborate funerary rituals. Best known are the wooden anthropomorphic polychromed coffins, which exist in both male and female forms. Reports about their use conflict, but what is certain is that they were carved in secrecy at a sacred clearing in the forest called Efomba by a ritual specialist woodcarver, bobongo, and the coffin is called bonganga-nganga. These anthropomorphic figures were put on the tombs of important people, in a small house built solely for that purpose.

Beauty and Sanctity: the Israel Museum at 40. A Series of Exhibitions Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Zalmona, Yigal, 2006

Beyond the Eye of the Beholder: Ideals of Human Beauty in Africa and the Americas, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 01/03/2005 - 17/01/2006

Digital presentation of this object was made possible by: The Ridgefield Foundation, New York, in memory of Henry J. and Erna D. Leir