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V 1:1/ 2000

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by Klaus-Jochen Krüger

fig. 31

It is quite unusual to find sculptures from the southern part of Sudan in early collections, whether public or private. This war-torn region has been inaccessible for many years, and, until very recently, southern Sudan was one of the few regions unscathed by African traders scouting for works of art. Sculpture from this remote region has only recently begun to appear in greater numbers on the art market, but despite their lack of pedigree they are worthy of detailed examination. In this article, we will describe the funerary sculptures of the Bongo and Belanda tribes. In a second article, to be published in a future issue of Tribal Arts, we will address the sculptural traditions of other ethnic groups in the region as well as other forms of artistic production by the Bongo.

Although Bongo art has long been known by specialists, and a few pieces found their way into the museums in the nineteenth century, no major Bongo work appeared in any Western public collection during the colonial period. It is therefore not surprising to see the paucity-or even total absence-of illustrations of Bongo and Belanda sculptures in works on African sculpture. Enthusiasts of African art did not start to take an interest in these remarkable works until they appeared in the major exhibition Afrikanische Skulptur, held by the Ludwig Museum in Cologne in 1990, and in Africa: The Art of a Continent five years later at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, in which three large sculptures were featured.

Bongo Tombs

In this study, we shall outline the history of this art as it relates to the Western world and explore its function and meaning in the world of the Bongo and Belanda.

Geographic Distribution

The Bongo live in the southern part of the province of Bahr-el-Ghazal in the south of Sudan, a region that is predominantly grassland. They live in familial farming communities, spread at some distance from one another, usually near water sources or rivers. During the rainy season, the grass is so high-sometimes over two meters-that orientation becomes almost impossible. 

The population has now deserted these vast regions, leaving only a few thousand Bongo divided into various groups and relatively isolated from each other. One large group with which this author has interacted lives in the Tonj region, another is in the Wau region and south of the Wau, and a third is in the Bussere river region. Smaller groups inhabit the Tembura district, the Rumbek region, and the Maridi and Yambio districts. The Belanda are found in the Wau region, mainly in the south and west, as well as in the Tembura region. A small group lives in Yambio. Thanks to this fragmentation, regional artistic styles can be confidently identified. 

A Bongo man


The Bongo are probably of Sudanese origin. They emigrated from an area in present-day Chad and around 1600 settled in the province they still occupy today. Their migration took them across territories far south of the Mbomu river, which may explain certain stylistic influences from the northern region of the Congo. In all likelihood, they brought the tradition of adorning tombs with wooden sculptures with them from the Chari region of Chad. It is documented that some Sara groups,1 with whom they have kinship ties, also have funerary sculptures, but not all Bongo and Belanda groups create sculpture of this type.
The Belanda probably took the tradition of placing sculptures on their tombs from their Bongo neighbors.2 This group emerged in the early seventeenth century from steady intermarriage between the Dho Luo (a Nilotic group from the northeast) and autochthonous Sudanese groups. The term Belanda actually covers two different tribes, the Bviri, who are primarily Sudanese mixed with Nilotic blood, and the Boor, who are primarily Nilotic mixed with Sudanese blood. The Bviri are related to the Ndogo and speak a Sudanese language. The Mbegumba are part of the Bviri. 


The Boor, on the other hand, are of Nilotic origin, are related to the Luo, and speak the Luo language. The Mberidi are part of the Boor. The Bviri and the Boor have drawn culturally closer to one another through constant intermarriage.
The Azande occupation of the region for almost the entire nineteenth century also left its mark. Towards the end of that century, the sultan of the Azande in Tembura drove many Belanda from their lands and they resettled much further to the north. Not all fled, however, and some, under the domination of the Azande conquerors, continued to practice their culture in a superficial manner. Known as Abare-Azande, their funerary sculpture can be classified among that of the Azande.(fig.1)

Bongo territory was one of the regions of African most fully described by European explorers at the end of the nineteenth century. At the time when Georg Schweinfurth, Theodor von Heuglin, Romolo Gessi, John Petherick, and Wilhelm Junker were in Bahr-el-Ghazal province, the region was in the throes of cultural upheaval and wracked by periods of war and conquest. The Bongo in particular were victims of these disturbances, and were almost totally exterminated by Arab slave traders. They were either sold as slaves or taken to zeribahs (fortified camps) as laborers to produce food or serve as porters (see Schweinfurth, Junker, Petherick, et al.). The social organization of the zeribah relied on the exploitation of human resources such as slaves, as well as on the ivory trade. The intensity of cultural relations with the Muslim conquerors doubtlessly influenced Bongo traditional culture and almost completely annihilated the Bongo as a people. The unstratified Bongo system of social organization, which had no central political leadership, could not stand up to the Arab's highly organized military conquests, and the Bongo were decimated. The same happened to the Belanda, some of whom escaped from the conflict only by putting themselves under the protection of the Azande (one colony even lived at the court of the Azande lord Gbudwe in Yambio) or by emigrating towards the south. Others fled northward with the Azande warriors close behind, and were forced to endure the latter's raids. The Bongo also suffered at the hands of the Azande. The former were armed only with bows and arrows, whereas the latter used spears, shields and swords. Disorganized and inferior in number, the Bongo nonetheless proved tough adversaries because of their guerrilla tactics.

The western part of the south Sudan was largely depopulated when the English took charge of the political administration of the region at the start of the twentieth century. It remains so today. The low population density kept game fairly plentiful, and cultures which had traditionally relied on hunting managed to survive. Until the 1970s the Bongo continued to subsist by hunting, using spears, bows and arrows, snares, and nets. Hunting also lay behind their traditional funerary monuments, which are decorated with large figural sculptures. Such sculptures portrayed the deceased, but the tombs themselves were also intended to show the rank he had attained in society through prowess in hunting and subsequent feast giving, and thus the influence he could exert on the living from the thereafter.

Bongo Sculptures in the Western World


Although the early explorers were interested in Bongo sculpture, we owe most of the illustrations and detailed descriptions of them to Schweinfurth and Junker. Petherick was the first to bring a Bongo sculpture3 back to Europe, and it is now in the British Museum in London (see fig. 2, left).

 It has little in common with the other pieces that have come out since. Similarly, the sculpture illustrated by Schweinfurth in Artes Africanae shows a style that has now disappeared (fig. 4). 

The works recorded by Georg Schweinfurth and Petherick were not tomb sculptures. They probably belonged to the type of figural sculpture placed in the house in memory of the deceased that was described by Georg Schweinfurth, or are similar to those erected on either side of the road leading to the village noted by J. Petherick.


The first photo of a Bongo sculpture dates from 1906 and is by the missionary Fritz Geyer.4 It is representative of a particular style still seen today, and the artistic region associated with it is centered around Tembura, near the Jubu river (see fig. 5b, left). 

The sculpture in the photograph is one of a pair of figures that stood in the garden next to what were then the government buildings. They were therefore easily accessible, and they were described and photographed several times in the course of the twentieth century. Geyer's image was accompanied by a description of the sculpture and was made during a visit to the province of Bahr-el-Ghazal. When the English traveler Richard Wyndham went to Tembura sometime before 1936, he too photographed these sculptures, still standing in what had become the hospital garden, and his photos were later reprinted by Joseph Maes.5Since Tembura was the seat of an important Azande chief, Marc Leo Felix,6 referring to a photo taken by Wyndham, wrongly described these sculptures as Azande tomb sculptures (which are rare but nonetheless documented). Wyndham, in a letter to Maes, himself noted that these wooden sculptures were made by an Azande on the request of the missionaries who wanted to decorate their garden. Geyer, on the other hand, mentioned works made by a Belanda carver for a European. Neither Geyer nor Wyndham records the traditional context appropriate for the Tembura pieces.7 Their inclusion in the corpus of traditional sculptures can therefore be challenged. They testify more to the influence of early cultural contacts and a transformation of the initial use of sculpture.

Charles Seligman, in 1917, was the first to reproduce a traditional ancient work taken from a tomb, probably the first funerary sculpture to arrive in a museum.8 Edward Evans-Pritchard, in 1929,9 was the first to write a detailed account of the tombs of the Tonj region, and he reproduced them in his work. In a 1932 volume, Seligman reprinted a photo of a pair of sculptures which had been taken by one Dr. Tucker. This same pair, photographed again in 1974 by the author, provides unusual pictorial evidence of the aging process of African sculpture (see fig. 11 below). 

Ultimately it was Andreas and Waltraud Kronenberg and their research that made the Bongo and their traditional culture known in the world of ethnography. In the 1950s they lived among the Bongo for a relatively long period of time and collected works that ultimately found a home in the Khartoum museum. They managed to acquire ancient tomb statues along with a few other examples that had never been used, and they arranged for some of the Tembura sculptures to be taken to Khartoum, where they were displayed in the museum gardens. They were still there when art professionals from Lower Saxony worked to restore them in 1987. Twenty years after being illustrated by Wyndham, one of these pieces was observed in almost the same condition as in his photograph. When it was restored in 1987, it showed signs of age (fig. 5).10


The history of Bongo sculptures in the West started in 1973, when some sixteen items were put on the art market through the intermediary of the Belgian art scholar and traveler Christian Duponcheel. Duponcheel11 had read newspaper reports of cease-fire negotiations between the central Sudanese government and the rebels in the south. He took the first plane for the Sudan and managed to meet the leader of the rebels who, because of the talks, was then living in the capital. With his help, Duponcheel managed to collect sculptures in the Bahr-el-Ghazal province and bring them to Europe. These pieces ended up in museums (in Paris, London, New York), in the hands of antique dealers (Henri Kamer), or in private collections (Frum, de Grunne, de Menil).


A year after Duponcheel, I went to the southern Sudan with my wife, where we photographed and collected the sculptures illustrated in figures 6 and 7. We traveled on foot, and spent a great deal of time questioning chiefs, healers, and, particularly, hunters.
Other sculptures reached Europe later, firstly by a Belgian carrier (fig. 8, above) and then through the efforts of a German UN official (figs. 9, left  and 10, below), but these were just souvenirs brought back by people working in the region. It was not until 1998 that these works appeared in greater numbers on the art market.


The Origin and Age of the Sculptures

The antique sculptures that do not come from tombs probably reflect localized phenomena (figs. 2 and 4). The Bongo sculptures associated with funerary practices are carved out of a tree trunk, the base of which is buried sixty to eighty cm in the ground. They were placed either in front of or in the center of a grave-mound and surrounded by stones, the whole measuring as much as three meters in diameter.
These tombs were set up near villages, and the figures on them were fully exposed to the weather. Since villages in this region moved when the ground was no longer suitable for cultivation, the older tombs are now mostly lost in the savannah, with no paths leading to them. The low density of the Bongo population makes it impossible to locate many of these tombs unless the local people are actively involved. This fact explains why the post at the base of the sculpture is sometimes chopped off with a machete: the Bongo, who respect their ancestors and their ancient tombs, do not want to disturb the ground by removing the buried part of the sculpture.
We must wonder what factors have affected these funerary sculptures over the years and what their life span might be. Carved from mahogany, the hardness and natural resistance of the wood has lent great durability to these sculptures. Termites, a primary enemy of African sculpture, cannot harm this dense wood, and it rarely splits. The sun fades the wood, which was originally red, but does not really attack it. The main damage the carvings suffer, then, is caused by moisture, especially during the rainy season. Erosion usually starts in the heartwood, and many of the sculptures become more or less hollow. Brush fires every year are another cause of destruction, as traces on some pieces show, but since the hard wood is difficult to burn, the sculpture are often only superficially charred. There is no way we can calculate the age of Bongo sculpture by using C-14, which is now commonly applied to other African sculptures, because we do not believe that these poles can be more than 100 to 120 years old. Thus the primary evidence we have for dating them lies in historical sources and photographic documents, which have enabled us to identify five sculptures that each appear in more than one photograph taken decades apart. Considering the extent of erosion that has occurred between the two dates, we can gain some insight into the aging process:


fig. 11

I - (fig. 11, left) o Sculptures from the town of Tonj, photographed by Tucker before 1932, then again in 1974. They were still standing in 1974, even if the face of the child is no longer recognizable, a fact more likely due to vandalism than erosion. These sculptures were in good overall condition more than forty-two years after they were first photographed, despite several obvious signs of wear. Interestingly, little remains of the actual tombs in the later photos. The photograph taken by Tucker shows freshly painted sculptures. We can therefore suppose that the figures were made not long before the first photograph was taken.

II - (see fig. 5a &b, above) o Sculpture from Tembura photographed before 1936 by Wyndham (The Gentle Savage, pl. 38) that was then taken to the Khartoum museum by the Kronenbergs in 1958. Some signs of erosion are visible between these two dates. The figure was displayed in the museum courtyard in 1958 and restored in 1987 because it was badly eroded. The face was in good condition in 1936, but after more than fifty-one years in the open air, it required restoration because of weather damage. 


III - (fig. 12 a, left) o This tomb, near Tonj, was photographed before 1936 by Wyndham and attributed by him to the Azande who lived in the region. It is obviously a Bongo tomb that was old at the time of the picture. 

(fig. 12 b, right) o Collected in 1999, in poor condition, this sculpture (visible bottom right, in profile, in the photo taken by Wyndham, The Gentle Savage, pl. 17) can be estimated to be more than seventy years old.



IV - (fig. 13, left) o Photographed before 1958 by the Kronenbergs, then again in 1974, this tomb does not show any visible changes. Although the Kronenbergs described it as ancient, the 1974 photo conveys the impression that the sculpture is relatively recent.

V - (fig. 14, right) o This pole, topped by a bird (a shoebill) dates from the 1940s, when the government commissioned animal sculptures at Tonj. People then started adorning tombs with animal figures too. This badly damaged sculpture was collected recently and is about sixty years old.


These few examples show that while the sculptures do not always weather consistently, generally speaking major changes can be seen to take place over a period of forty years. We can also conclude that once the process of wear has begun, it develops rapidly, while as long as the wood is intact, changes are hardly noticeable. We can therefore assert that the older sculptures must have been between fifty and one hundred years old at the most at the time of collection.


Thanks to the Kronenberg's research into the religious significance of the tombs, we have more information for these sculptures than for many other types of tribal artwork, and we are able to sketch in the religious context in which they were made.
Here, Loma created the world and all human beings. Loma, God the Creator, is present in all creation, the spiritual aspect present in every human being, and every animate or inanimate thing. Living beings do not have direct relations with Loma, but after death they arrive in Loma's village, where they will live forever. They now belong to the world of the ancestors, and wield certain influence that they can use for the well-being of their descendants.
Loma-Gubu is the antithesis of Loma. He is the master of the forest and created the mountains, rivers, trees and the animals in the bush. Bongo hunters are a constant spiritual threat to Loma-Gubu, because when they hunt they enter his domain and disturb his creation. Although the Bongo live in permanent conflict with Loma-Gubu, they have no contact with him after death. Every Bongo hunter erects an altar to this god of the forest during a hunting ritual, in an attempt to appease him and win his favor. This altar, which is the dwelling of the master of the forest, is called ru loma gubu and the trophy tree, or föri, is erected in front of it. The hunter and his wife must obey strict rules of behavior during the hunt. From the attitude of the animals in the forest, the hunter can discern whether or not his wife has obeyed these rules, and her failure to do so may endanger her husband's life. Obedient behavior and the proper rites contribute to a successful hunt and protect the hunter from accidents.

Hunting and Feasts of Merit


When a Bongo hunter has killed big game, such as a buffalo, an elephant, a leopard-or even a man-he has committed a serious offense in the domain of the master of the forest, who will not fail to punish him. The offender must therefore perform a hunting rite to appease Loma-Gubu. The utensils used to concoct this pacifying "hunting medicine" will later be represented by the various rings carved on the poles erected on the tombs. Skulls and hunting trophies are also represented symbolically on the tombs. In ancient times, killing an enemy was a dangerous and particularly deserving deed, which was honored by funerary monuments. Thus in figure 7, on the mound behind the figure, two poles surmounted by heads representing slain enemies, are visible.
Petherick observed föri hung with human skulls in honor of the master of the forest: "In the center of the village is a large Circus, where, on a tree, their war trophies-the skulls of the slain-are suspended." The significance of killing an enemy in the Bongo world is underlined by a comment by a Father Magagnotto, quoted by Stefano Santandrea: "It was customary among the Bongo youth to eat with the left hand, until their right hand had had the honor to kill a Djur man." These days, buffalo are considered the most difficult quarry to kill, so it is hardly surprising when horns or even buffalo skulls are incorporated into funerary decoration.


When the spoils of the hunt are important, the hunter's prestige rises in the eyes of his companions. A few days after the hunting ritual, he has the right to celebrate, and during the ensuing feast of merit, for which he is responsible, he receives a title corresponding to the number of animals killed. For the several days of the feast's duration, the hunter must provide a crowd of guests with beer and various foods. They dance with the hunting trophy and give testimony in honor of the hunter. This feast requires large amounts of millet. As the cereal is not always available, the feast is sometimes postponed until it can be obtained. The more feasts of merit the hunter organizes, the higher his social status rises. His hunting feats and feasts will later be marked on his funerary monuments, where bowl-shaped rings on the poles indicate the preparation of a hunting medicine and the spheres represent the heads of game killed (fig. 15). The heads on the top of the poles may, as noted above, refer to the people slain by the hunter. Poles ending in a fork are erected around the mound to evoke lesser animals he has killed.

Funerary Ceremonies

The ceremony in which the funerary monuments are raised, are in a sense the last feast organized in honor of a Bongo hunter. So the monument and the feast both confirm the rank the deceased attained during his lifetime, and ensure that he maintains that rank in the next world. The deceased now stands before Loma to claim his place in the god's village. The tombs are erected and painted with ochre; the mound is surrounded by stones. The number and shape of the funerary monuments depend on the acts performed by the deceased as well as the number of feasts of merit he has given. During the festivities, relatives and guests recite the deceased's hunting feats and his genealogy. Loma can thus evaluate the deceased; the higher his status, the more grandiose and elaborate the feast must be. If the ceremony were to prove inadequate, or inappropriate for the social rank of the deceased, or if the funerary monuments were unworthy of his merit and titles, the deceased would be unable to use his influence with Loma to protect his descendants sufficiently. Moreover, the latter would bring the vengeance (sini) of the deceased down on themselves.

Although they are very diverse in some respects, Bongo tombs invariably correspond to the rank achieved during the person's lifetime, and are thus constructed according to certain rules.

fig. 30

Large anthropomorphic sculptures are erected in front of the tombs of very great hunters. They often represent the deceased and even, in some cases, the men he has slain. They face Loma's village in the east. On the mound, carved poles often show the number of the hunter's trophies as well as the utensils used to prepare the hunting medicine. They may be surmounted by a head, especially in the Tonj region. Often, the poles around the mound end in a fork, which is a stylization of horns. They too testify to the hunter's prowess. Sometimes the tombs are covered with broken furniture that once belonged to the deceased, or animal skulls, or flags. The sculptures are often embedded with iron arrowheads used during the funerary ceremony, in the course of which the sculptures were painted with ochre or laterite (another red earth). Traces of pigment sometimes remain. 

The deceased is sometimes represented by only a bust, as Schweinfurth reports, probably due, at least in part, to the characteristic style of the individual sculptor. The tombs of hunters of inferior rank are often distinguished only by simple ringed poles.

Some graves are marked with large anthropomorphic sculptures but have neither mound nor poles around them. These too represent a dead person, but are erected only if the deceased was killed by sorcery. These representations, known as mangir, are intended to keep away witches. They are erected on the grave immediately after death with no special ceremony.

Women are not usually entitled to a sculpture representing them, because they do not hunt. When there is a pole on a woman's tomb, it is there because a feast of merit has been given in her honor by hunters. The sculpture shown in figure 13 is one such example, and represents a famous female magician. When hunters wish to heighten the influence of an eminent female personality in the hereafter, they can transfer their feasts to her, and this may account for the presence of carved poles on certain women's tombs.

Belanda tombs are similar to those of the Bongo and serve the same purpose. The Belanda, however, are more inclined than the Bongo to honor women's tombs with poles. Such tombs probably belong to the mothers of great hunters.

The funerary monuments of neighboring groups, such as the Moru, Avukaya, Morokodo, Lori, Sofi, Beli, which will be addressed in the second part of this article, differ from Belanda and Bongo tombs in style and function as well as meaning. In some tribes, almost every deceased has a sculpture, whereas in others this honor is reserved for only a few special people, such as rainmakers. So few people remain and so little is known of their past that the classification of these tombs is quite vague. The early travelers made several errors, such as the "Zande" tomb discovered by Wyndham that proved to be a Bongo tomb, although very probably the closest neighbors were Azande (fig. 12).

Centers of Artistic Activity



The map in this article shows that a large number of regional styles exist. This is hardly surprising, given the isolation of the different Bongo and Belanda groups. Three Bongo Tonj styles (figs. 3, 6, 7, 12, 16, 17, 18, and 19) can be distinguished, as can the Bussere style (fig. 9), the southern Wau style (figs. 20 and 21) and at least three Belanda styles-Mbegumba (figs. 23 and 24), Mberidi (fig. 10), and the Abare-Azande style in Yambio (fig. 1)-as well as the Tembura (fig. 5) and Baka styles (fig. 25).
Theoretically, any Bongo who wishes to do so is free to become a sculptor and make funerary statues. Most of the time, he works for his group in his own style. Specific sculptors often specialize in ringed poles, or forked poles, or large statues.


fig. 20

fig. 21

fig. 23

The isolation of the various Bongo tribes within a vast territory, exacerbated by their armed struggles, accounts for the lack of exchange between them and the development of distinctive regional styles. Moreover, the size and weight of the funerary statues made it difficult if not impossible to carry them over long distances. These factors enable us to identify the style of a number of sculptors specializing in anthropomorphic funerary representations. Even the makers of ringed poles seem to have developed individual styles. This article concludes with a summary of the main styles of Bongo and Belanda poles and their geographic origins.


o Tonj I style 
(figs. 3 left, 6 and 7, above)
The "Master of Tonj" has been quite rightly observed through his works. This remarkable style is characterized by the depiction of male figures which have a sense of motion. The head is oval, and the sculptor has sometimes suggested a beard. They all wear loincloths, and the eyes, originally set with snail shells, seem to gaze into eternity. Often one arm is raised and one leg is slightly forward. Reinforced by the slight bend of the knees, this gives the impression of movement. The sculptures all seem to have been made by the same hand, and the name of this sculptor has been handed down to us: Kwanja Gete, or Bandja Geti, according to the Kronenbergs. He was still alive in the 1950s when the Kronenbergs lived among the Bongo, and they managed to acquire his last works for the Khartoum museum. In 1974, he and his sons, also sculptors, were dead and we were introduced to a young sculptor who made modern funerary sculptures. Very recently, contemporary pieces in the same style have appeared. They are generally smaller and are often colonial representations. Although some of them have undeniable merits, many look particularly stiff. Perhaps these works can be attributed to pupils of the Master of Tonj.

o Tonj II style 
(see fig. 12, above)
This ancient style is composed of the work of a sculptor specializing in busts. The same sculpture can be seen in situ in the photo taken by Wyndham in the 1930s. The tradition of representing the deceased not in his entirety but as a bust was certainly more widespread in earlier times; old documentation reveals many more busts than can be seen today. This relatively abstract style is nonetheless very different from the other Tonj styles, and the sculptor very probably belonged to another group. Wyndham photographed this tomb and attributed it to the Azande, but he was mistaken. This funerary monument is characteristic of other works in the Bongo Tonj II style.

o Tonj ringed pole style I 
(figs. 16 a and b, above and 17, right)
The range of this very prolific sculptor covers the same area as the Tonj I. He worked specifically on ringed funerary poles, often surmounted by a head. Only one of his many known works shows a complete figure.


fig. 18

o Tonj ringed pole style II 
(fig. 18, left)
In the same region, a second style is attributable to a sculptor specializing in ringed poles surmounted by a head. His style is more realistic and the head is always adorned with a very elaborate headdress. The diversity of these two styles in the same geographic area shows the great stylistic freedom enjoyed by neighboring sculptors.

o Eastern Tonj style 
(see fig. 19, above)
A more abstract style prevails in the region between Rumbek and Tonj. The heart-shaped, concave faces evoke sculptures from the eastern Congo and are related to the bust statues of Tonj II. This sculptor, too, portrays movement and emotion. The figure's arm seems to be making a gesture of mourning.

o Bussere style 
(see fig. 9, above)
The Bussere group, according to the Kronenbergs, has preserved the most authentic traditions. In their book, the Kronenbergs show several pieces carved by the same sculptor. The figures are always unclothed, the body slightly curved along the line of the trunk. The mouth and eyes are wide open, the face is concave and heart-shaped. The arms are carved very close to the body. The strong stylization is quite the opposite of the representation of movement typical of the Tonj region.

o Wau I style (southern region)
(see fig. 20, above)
This statue, like the one in the British Museum (see Phillips, p. 138 [BM. AF. 35.1]) is the work of a master who lived south of Wau, a region characterized by figures lacking any sense of movement.

o Wau II style 
(see fig. 21, above)
This figure shows typical scarification on the stomach, face, and forehead. The stylized face is heart-shaped. The eyes are inlaid with metal, a technique that is also found among the neighboring Belanda subtribe, the Mbegumba.


o Bongo, Tembura style 
(fig. 22 a, left and b, right)
This sculptor made particularly large, impressive carved poles, veritable sculptures in their own right. The face is always very expressive, the head thrust slightly forward, the ears and eyes deeply hollowed out, the oval mouth always open. The base of the head and the upper part of a medicine utensil supporting it make two matching parallel surfaces (fig. 22 a). Another piece by the same artist is shown in figure 22 b.


o Belanda, Mbegumba I style 
(see fig. 23, above)
This sculpture is probably the only example known in this style. There have been Western influences in this region since the 1930s. Evans-Pritchard wrote about this sculptural style: "Those erected by the Mbegumba are the finest he has seen in Bahr-el-Ghazal. They are draped with bark-cloth or a woven waistband, and are adorned with hats, ear-ornaments, and nose pins; they are made for both sexes, the bodies well carved and in parts colored with red and blue dyes. Sometimes there are three short diagonal cuts on each cheek, which may constitute a tribal mark." Time has worn away the colors on these ancient sculptures. Some were given a colonial helmet, which seems to have been a symbol of high social status among other Belanda very early on, and is therefore naturally found on the sculptures. But under no circumstances was a headdress attached to this statue's forehead by means of metal nails as was noted by Jeremy Coote in his comments on the three Bongo figures in the catalogue for Africa: The Art of a Continent, Phillips, ed. (1995, p. 137).


o Mbegumba II style 
(fig. 24, left)
This figure, more realistic and with no metal insertions, illustrates a second Mbegumba style. It is the work of a famous artist from the Rafili region, Usta Ukun. His figures are generally tall, with gentle, sturdy forms. Another of his sculptures is in the Khartoum museum. 

o Belanda, Mberidi style 
(see fig. 10, above)
Other works by this sculptor are known,12 identified with a region further south. The artist also made very tall figures, always unclothed, with surprisingly broad, square shoulders and powerful thighs. The mouth is open in an aggressive expression, the head is covered by a helmet-like coiffure or sometimes a European hat. Unlike the sculptures of the Master of Rafili (fig. 24), brute strength emanates from these figures. The Belanda live as far south as Tembura, and a few small groups have even settled in the Yambio district. All the southern Belanda tribes sculpt in a similar style.

o Belanda, Abare-Azande style from Yambio 
(see fig. 1, above)
Yambio was once the seat of the Azande lords, so the whole region is entirely Azande. Yet, tomb sculptures are found here that are markedly different from those seen elsewhere.13 The face is a sort of mask placed in front of a simple headdress and has a meditative expression, and the geometric stylization of the arms is an innovation in the corpus of funerary sculptures. These are more akin to the large statues of the northern Congo region than the more rustic styles of East Africa. The stylized diamond-shaped headdress is found on some of the Zande sculptures from Yambio, as is the use of a mask to portray the face. This style is close to the traditions specific to the Azande sculptures from Yambio, such as Azande bells and heads adorning harps. This figure comes from the Abare-Azande, a Belanda tribe which in earlier times was under the cultural influence of the Azande. 
This style and the artists whose work exemplified it will be addressed again in the second part of this article which will run in a future issue.

o Tembura style 
(see fig. 5, above)
The sculptures that embody this style adorned the courtyard of the former Source Jubu hospital. They are not made in a traditional style and are thought to represent the military doctors posted to the hospital. The style is gentle and decorative and somewhat naturalistic. There are claims that there were once similar statues in the Lirangu hospital near Yambio.

fig. 25

o Baka style 
(fig. 25, left)
The Baka, a subtribe very close to the Bongo, live in the region of Maridi and Yei. Only two carved poles by them have been identified. These are highly stylized and only surmounted by a head.

fig. 26 fig. 27 fig. 28

I would like to express my particular thanks to my wife, Gabi, who accompanied me in several travels, and to Max Itzikovitz, for his support.

1. Chevalier, quoted by Baumann. [back]
2. Santandrea. [back]
3. British Museum N°. Af. 7392, illustrated in Wood's Natural History of Man, Africa, 1874, and Afrikanische Plastik, Eckart von Sydow, Berlin, 1924.[back]
4. Geyer, p. 288, reproduced a sculpture (a part of a couple) from Tembura which was at the entrance of the garden next to the government building along the Jubu river.[back]
5. Maes, J., Kabila - En Grafbeelden uit Kongo, Brussels, 1938, fig. 23, p. 99.[back]
6. Felix, Marc Leo, 100 Peoples of Zaire and Their Sculpture, 1987, 203.[back]
7. Reproduced in 1936 by Wyndham, figs. 36, 37 and 38; Kronenberg, 1960, figs. L, LI, LII; Fendel, Fischer and Maas, 1989, p. 63.[back]
8. In "Gordon College de Khartoum," reproduced in Man, June 1917.[back]
9. The Bongo, Sudan Notes and Records, Vol. XII, part 1.[back]
10. Fendel, Fischer and Maas, "Grabstelen," at the Khartoum National Museum.[back]
11. Personal communication.[back]
12. Illustrated in Kramer/Streck, Sudanesische Marginalien, München, 1991, p. 90.[back]
13. Gero, F., Death among the Azande of the Sudan, Museum Combonianum, 1968.[back]
14. See Schildkrout/Keim, figs. 2.9 and 11.1, and also Fagg, N° 111.[back]
15. Reproduced by Wyndham, pl. 17, then by Maes, fig. 24, p. 100.[back]


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BERNATZIK, H. A., Gari Gari, 1948.
FAGG, W., Tribes and Forms in African Art. Paris, 1965.
FELIX, Marc Leo, 100 Peoples of Zaire and Their Sculpture: The Handbook, Brussels, 1987.
EVANS-PRITCHARD, E. E., The Bongo, Sudan Notes and Records, Vol. 12, 1929, pp. 1-61.
FENDEL, FISCHER and MAAS, "Grabstelen," in Möller, H.-H., Berichte zur Denkmalpflege in Niedersachsen, Hamlen, 1989.
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---. "Die Soziale Rolle der Jagd bei den Bongo," Anthropos, Vol. 58, 3/4, 1963, pp. 507-519.
---."Verdienstfeste und Grabmonumente in der Bahr-el-Ghazal Provinz," VIe Congrès International, Paris, Vol. 2, 1964, pp. 229-232.
---. Die Bongo: Bauern und Jäger im Südsudan, Wiesbaden, Steiner, 1981.
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---. Artes Africanae, F. A. Brockhaus, Leipzig, London, 1875.
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SELIGMAN, Charles G., and BRENDA, Z., Pagan Tribes of the Nilotic Sudan, Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., London, 1932.
SYDOW, Eckart von, Afrikanische Plastik, Berlin, 1954.
WYNDHAM, R., The Gentle Savage, Cassell and Company, Ltd., London

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