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Congo power figures of such high quality, in the act of biting stick, actually a root, are rare and distinctive in their iconography. Though not exhaustive, by comparison, the Yale-Van Rijn Archive lists less than one-hundred and fifty figures - including the stone mintadi and ivory flywhisk handles - from Congo engaged in this gesture. This is a very small number compared to the known corpus of Congo power figures and their variant iconic gestures. See Bastian, Die deutsche Expedition an der Loango-Kste", vol.2, Jena, 1875 and Lehuard, Art Bakongo - Les Centres de Style, Vol.I, Arnouville: Arts d'Afrique Noire, 1989, p.282, n.D 16-1-2, for a related figure of superb quality in the same posture in the collection of the Ethnologisches Museum (SMPK), Berlin, Germany, inv. no. III C 531 acquired in 1872 on the German Loango Expedition.
As Robin Poynor notes, in his discussion of a figure from a flywhisk with a bite stick from the Royal Museum of Central Africa, Teruvuren, EO.o.o.43708 : 'with his right hand he grasps a root known as munkwisa, which he bites. The root is used for many purposes, among them warding off witches. According to Kongo belief, if the chief pointed the munkwisa at an individual, the individual could die. Thus, the root can symbolize the power of life and death a chief wields over his followers. Munkwisa also symbolizes the chief's own fertility and thus that of his people' (Kongo Across the Waters, 2013, p.120).
Karel Timmermans taught French, in 1959 and 1962-1965, in Luluabourg, the capital of western Kasa, now known as Kananga in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the former Belgian Congo. His brother, Paul, developed a museum there, and it was he who introduced Karel to the remarkable art of Congo. During his tenure, he studied the art, interacted with the people and traversed the country with zest and earnest. In villages, he collected objects and took detailed notes. Once back in Belgium, he refined his own collection focusing on the art of his favorite region, Kasa. He acquired other works, meanwhile, which he felt were of complementary stylistic merit, such as the offered lot.