Chief's or Diviner's Figure representing the Belgian Colonial Officer, Maximilien Balot (Primary Title)

Unknown (Artist)

Wood (possibly Alstonia Boonei), with metal repair staples
Democratic Republic of Congo
Overall: 25 × 6 × 6 in. (63.5 × 15.24 × 15.24 cm)
See Also "Female Ancestor/Power Figure" (L.58.2011.1)

This statue was made in response to the killing of Belgian colonial agent Maximilien Balot in the Pende area on June 8, 1931. Cruel treatment by the colonial administration and forced-labor practices of European industries operating there created a tense atmosphere. When Balot went to collect taxes and investigate complaints, those tensions erupted, and he was killed during a confrontation. The incident sparked a broader rebellion that lasted until September that year.

This statue may have been created as a way to immobilize the spirit of the dead man, which the Pende believe could wander and wreak havoc, and as a weapon to use in ritual warfare against the enemy. In either case, the figure is an artistic indictment of a despised colonial agent. The ramrod stance and cold, arrogant glare register a dark intensity.

Aldine S. Hartman Endowment Fund
Fiktion Kongo, Museum Rietberg Zürich, Switzerland, November 22, 2019 - March 15, 2020
Guyer, Nanina, and Michaela Oberhofer. Congo as Fiction Art Worlds Between Past and Present. Zürich: Museum Rietberg Zürich. Scheidegger und Spiess, 2019. (no. 279, p. 206)

Strother, Z.S. Humor and Violence: Seeing Europeans in Central African Art. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2017. p. 221 fig. 6.9, color illus. p. 224 fig. 6.10 detail of head, color illus. p. 229 fig. 6.13, diagram.
© artist or artist’s estate

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