african masksCongo-woman-Mumbai
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A fine Eastern Pende Panya-Gombe African mask. Coll.: David Norden

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Congo women in Mumbai


An American, a Belgian and an Indian have brought Mumbai its first taste of Central African art. 

The National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) hosts The Feminine Personified: Women in the Ritual Art of the Congo until January 4n 2003. 


found at

By: Shrikesh Laxmidas  December 30, 2003 
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African art -Luba Kanyok -Mumbai One of the 72 exhibits at the NGMA  (Luba Kanyok)

Shifra Joseph-Maurer, a Mumbai native and one of the only Indian women to enter the field of central African art history, and her American husband, Noah Maurer, curate the show. Two years of hard work under the direction of Marc Leo Felix, head of the Congo Basin Art History Research Centre in Brussels, Belgium have resulted in this show.


The venue, the top dome of the NGMA, suits the exhibition perfectly. The most striking characteristic, to those unfamiliar with Congolese art, is the degree of abstraction taken with the human form. One can easily see how this disregard for realism is probably what inspired late 19th century and early 20th century artists such as Braque, Derain and Picasso.

Seventy-two objects dating from the mid-18th to the early 20th century, all of which depict women in a different perspective, from naturalistic to abstract, are on display. Certain examples are of ivory and terracotta while the majority is carved of wood. 

Women are extremely important in the cultures of the Congo. They are venerated as ancestors and as founders of both clan and lineage, as queens and chiefs, titleholders and honoured advisors. 

In the Congo there is an omnipresent cultural belief in spiritual forces and their ability to influence daily life. Figurative sculpture plays a key role in harnessing these spiritual forces, acting as a sacred medium between the realms of the flesh and the spirit. 

Felix clarified that though African art has often gained a bad reputation for black magic and voodoo, this is not at all what the exhibits at this show are about.“None of these are made to harm,” he said. “They are made to inspire fertility, wealth, and protection against diseases.” 

read also on same subject: Congo to India


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