Songye community power figure estimated at $1.5m

A Songye community power figure, created in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is valued at $1m-1.5m ahead of a sale of African and pre-Columbian art at Sotheby's.

The New York auction features several lots from the collection of Allan Stone, a respected dealer in ethnographic artefacts.

The sheer size of the statue places it among the most significant examples known to have been produced by the Songye people.

Songye community power
The Songye are known for their distinctive and impressive carvings

Such guardians were commissioned by local sorcerers with the intention that a spirit would take up residence inside and protect the tribe.

The lot is composed of a variety of materials, including copper, leather and wood. The studs across its face represent smallpox, which periodically ravished the region.

In November last year, a Songye power figure made $2m in the sale of another part of the Allan Stone collection.  

A Kongo-Yombe Nail power figure, also from the DRC, is estimated at $700,000-1m.

Kongo-Yombe nail
The nail figures were used in the settling of disputes

The figure is designed to inspire fear and would have once held a spear in its raised right hand. It was important that the figures commanded respect as they served a judicial purpose in the culture of the tribe.

The nails that cover the figure are highly symbolic. They would be hammered in upon the resolution of a dispute, or once the cause of a problem was uncovered - meaning each represents a story in the history of the village.

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