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Unknown Maker
Standing Male Figure (Singiti) Standing Male Figure (Singiti)
unknown date unknown date

The closed eyes and slight smile on the face of this standing figure (singiti) are important physical traits that create a serene expression, meant to reflect the inner calm of the ancestor represented. Dating back to as early as the 17th century, singiti figures serve as a tool for meditation on the continuity of families, and the celebration and justification of ancestral lineages. This point is further evidenced in the positioning of the figure’s hands on a distended abdomen, which symbolizes the ancestor watching over his descendants.

Produced posthumously, these commemorative sculptures were made for specific ancestors, although they exhibit universal traits including a serene expression, high forehead, beard, distended abdomen and short legs. The figures represent people of importance, for example chiefs, though not all prominent people were memorialized in this way. When a chief dreamed of a predecessor, this was interpreted as a sign to commission a singiti in that person’s memory. Stored in a purpose-built structure with other singiti, the sculpture is maintained and honoured by an assigned caretaker, ensuring that descendants receive protection.

Stylistically, the shape of the face and the features are influenced by the traditions of the Luba peoples, owing to the fact that the Hemba were once part of that empire. This is particularly evident in the high forehead, which is believed to house the spirit and to represent intelligence.

 
Unknown Maker
Hemba peoples Hemba peoples
Standing Male Figure (Singiti) Standing Male Figure (Singiti)
unknown date unknown date
wood, rope wood, rope
height / width / depth: 61.50 x 29.00 x 19.30 cm; 24.21 x 11.42 x 7.60 in.
Gift of Justin and Elisabeth Lang, 1984 Gift of Justin and Elisabeth Lang, 1984
M84-429

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