Democratic Republic of the Congo
This commemorative stone sculpture portrays a royal person in deep thought. Made 100 years ago or more, it comes from the region of the great Kingdom of the Kongo. The sculpture’s asymmetrical posture—with crossed legs and its palm to its cheek—is iconic. In Kongo culture, this gesture is associated with reflection and discretion, qualities associated with effective political leadership. The Kongo Kingdom, with the hilltop city of Mbanza Kongo as its capital and home of its king, located in what is now northern Angola, had flourished for several centuries before becoming known to Europeans. Between ca. 1300 and 1400, a federation of political entities to the north and south of the mouth of the Kongo River became united. Through conquest and political alliances they formed a centrally organized kingdom, divided into provinces ruled by governors—all under the king’s leadership.