Item: Kusu male Ancestor Figure. Origin: Both Congo Republics & Zambia Size: 30.5 x 9 cm x 10 cm Medium: Timber carving, pigment. Provenance: Rudner Collection, Collected prior to 1954. Michel Fachau Collection, Cape Town, Private Collection, Melbourne. Fine condition, original patina & no restoration.
Ethnographical Notes: About 60,000 Kusu live on the left bank of Lualaba River. During their exodus from north, they passed through Luba, Hemba and Songye lands where they assimilated social and artistic traditions of these ethnic groups. They are divided into clans, each headed by a chief Wembi, assisted by village chiefs, known as Mwamkana, and by family chiefs called Bankumi. Historically, the Kusu were hunters, but now they grow maize, yams, beans, and raise animals, including cows, pigs, goats, and chickens.
Fishing is performed by both men and women. They recognize a supreme being (Vilie) and share a common belief in the power of the ancestors. They worship various nature spirits, recognize ancestor cults that have been borrowed from the Hemba and the Luba, and fashion and use powerful magical figures similar to those found among the Songye.
There is an initiation society, which is primarily aimed at educating people about the evils of witchcraft, and there are also diviners that are consulted for matters of importance. Nothing precise is known about the Kusu art. It is relatively rare and is highly influenced by the neighboring Luba, Songye, and Hemba. Statues are usually carved from dark red wood sometimes covered with an oily patina. No Kusu masks have been identified so far.
Central African Tribal Art, African Origins, Tribal Art Gallery, Melbourne, Australia.