A Moba Tchitchiri sculpture, northern Togo, standing on shortened high abstract legs, broad hips, an elongated torso with elongated arms, all limbs tapering; heavy, hard wood, weathered, several cracks and holes, clear signs of old age, posted on a blackened plinth.
The Moba people, who live in northern Togo on the border of Burkina Faso, are known for their highly abstract, human figures. A round, spherical head sits – in most cases with no neck – on an extremely simple, long, genderless body with proportionally short arms and legs. The Moba distinguish three varieties of the same type, each one according to size.
1: small figures made of wood or iron. They are personal, individual protective figures and are placed on altars. They are called ‘Yendu tchitcheri’.
2: medium-sized figures, made of wood, that represent an important family ancestor. They are placed on the house altar of this family, are honoured and receive sacrificial offerings. They are called ‘Bavong tchitcheri’.
2: large (almost life-size) figures made of wood that represent an important clan founder. They are placed outdoors and should protect the entire village. They are called ‘Sakab tchitcheri’.
In Moba communities of northeastern Ghana and northwestern Togo, diviners influence and direct the commissioning, design, and ritual treatment of sculptural forms created for several different kinds of domestic shrines.1 Both the scale and the relatively abstract form of this particular work suggest that it was probably owned by an extended family or clan. It was associated with their origins and played a vital role in assuring their collective well-being.
In Moba society, when ancestral offerings fail to provide an individual with desired relief, an earth oracle with an established reputation is consulted.2 In advising individuals, families, or clans, Moba diviners prescribe tchitcheri figures to fortify their clients and improve their lives. Such works increase the efficacy of the ritual actions performed at shrines by calling forth positive ancestral influences. They are protective and promote health and prosperity on a range of different levels. When a particular problem disrupted an individual’s life, diviners often recommended the addition of a figurative work to that person’s private altar. Similarly, problems of broader concern, such as diseased livestock, poor harvests, or infertility, often led diviners to prescribe that a larger work be commissioned for a family shrine.
Challenging an account by Leo Frobenius from the turn of the century, which suggested that the owner of such a work carved it him- or herself, Christine Mullen Kreamer determined that it was invariably made by a specialist. Although in Moba society, wood carving is a skill that all may acquire, tchitcheri may be fashioned only by ndividuals whose fathers are diviners. Carving tchitcheri is considered a delicate and highly dangerous operation, and diviners give their sons special protection needed for the creation of such ritually charged objects. Those who transgress this sanction are thought to risk blindness or insanity.. source: Met Museum.
Lit.: Erwin Melchardt: Moba, Togo: an ancestral and protective figure, ‘tchitcheri’. Schädler: Encyclopedia of African Art and Culture.
1000 – 1200,- Euro
Height: 112 cm
Weight: 9,8 kg (incl. stand)