Half-figure (mpundu)

Tabwa peoples
19th–20th century
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General Description

According to the Tabwa people, twins are rare and special beings who are sent to earth to keep peace between humans and nature. When a twin dies in infancy, he or she is memorialized in a carved wooden statue, or "mpundu," like this one. Notice that this Tabwa twin figure appears to be incomplete: it has no arms and the body ends just below the navel. To the Tabwa people, the incompleteness of the figure is fitting because the twin is not considered a whole person. The Tabwa people do not mourn dead twins because they believe the twins have returned home. They care for the twin figures with love and respect. When the surviving twin is old enough to walk, he or she takes over the care of the statue, signifying that even in death twins remain connected.