TERA Gallery - Africa and the World

"Altering The Way You View The World Of Art"
Kongo Crucifix
Early 16th - 17th century
Democratic Republic of Congo
Brass; H. 10 in. (25.4 cm)
  • Although most Americans are comfortable with the idea of Muslim
    Africans in the slave trade period, they seem much less comfortable
    with Christian Africans.  A literate elite, drawing partially in European
    clothes, bearing Portuguese names, and professing Catholicism seem
    somehow out of place in the popular image of precolonial Africa.  (John
    K. Thornton.  The Kongolese Saint Anthony [UK: Cambridge University
    Press, 1998], 1).
  • In this work, Christ's facial features and hair are that of a Kongolese
    subject.  Below Christ and above his shoulders are three small, highly
    stylized orant (praying figures) whose role and identities are thought to
    be mourners, ancestors, angels, saints or even apostles. Considered an
    emblem of spiritual authority and power, the Christian cross was
    integrated into Kongo ancestral cults and burial rituals, and was
    believed to contain magical protective properties that could intervene in
    matters ranging from illness and fertility to rainfall.