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88 of 1,327

Teke (Democratic Republic of Congo)

Male figure (butti)

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Object Details

Culture

Teke (Democratic Republic of Congo)

Medium

Wood

Dimensions

13 x 3 1/2 inches (33 x 8.9 cm)

Credit Line

Acquired through the Membership Purchase Fund

Object
Number

73.024.004

BRIEF DESCRIPTIONThis is a carved wooden figure known as a butti. Butti figures are carved to repres(…)

BRIEF DESCRIPTIONThis is a carved wooden figure known as a butti. Butti figures are carved to represent important Teke men.WHERE WAS IT MADE?The Teke live along the Congo River, where it creates the border between the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo.HOW WAS IT MADE?This figure was hand carved by a Teke wood carver using tools such as an adze, knives, and chisels. To produce the smooth, black surface of the figure the sculptor polished the wood with the blade of a very hot knife. HOW WAS IT USED?Butti figures are carved to represent an exalted man, such as a community leader or chief. Traditionally, upon the man’s death, the butti joins the deceased at his burial. However, these figures function in other ways and are placed at ritual sites as well.WHY DOES IT LOOK LIKE THIS?Notice the figure’s highly stylized facial features, including a triangular beard, a broad flat nose, and small slit eyes. Also notice the scarification, which is culturally specific; the tiny vertical lines (mbandjuala) are typical among the Teke. Can you see any arms on this figure? Although butti typically have small, sculpted arms, these appendages are not visible on most of these figures. A thick coating of sand and clay covers this figure’s arms and torso. Beneath this encasement there is an open cavity in the figure’s abdomen that holds powerful medicines.

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