Boa Dagger, Belgian Congo, Old Belgian Collection.

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 Boa Dagger. Size:39 x 6 x 3.5 cm. Blade is 28 cm, handle is 10 cm. Medium: Ironwork, carved timber & Trade Wire. Origin: Northern Congo (see ethnographic notes below) Provenance: Charles-Louis Manteau, Brussels, 1938, thence by desent to his daughter, Jaqueline Manteau in Chamonix 1960's then Frederick W Wilson Collection, Melbourne from 1990.

The Boa ethnic group comprises 200,000 savanna-dwelling people living in the northern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Each village is headed by a chief from the most prestigious clan. The Boa are mainly farmers and are in frequent contact with Mangbetu and Zande. The Boa are known principally for their masks, believed to be used in war-related ceremonies, to enhance the warrior's courage or to celebrate victories. These masks have set-apart, prominent, round ears, suggesting alertness, and are covered alternately with dark and light pigments.  They have been described as belonging to warrior or secret associations and are considered to be war masks or disguises used in hunting although the precise function of Boa masks is not known.

 

The Boa carve statues with apotropaic functions. They also produce harps with human heads carved at the neck; sometimes the harp body is completely sculptured as a male or female figure.

 

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African Origins Tribal Art Gallery, Melbourne, Australia.