This is a wooden monument created by the Bongo peoples from South Sudan to mark the grave of an important member of the community, often a high ranking hunter or warrior.
This work was carved from a single tree trunk of mahogany - mahogany’s great durability protects such sculptures from the wear and tear of the elements as well as from degradation by termites. The eyes were originally marked by beads.
In some cases, the posts capture personal adornments such as bracelets and scarification patterns. During his lifetime, a Bongo man could gain honor and prestige through successfully hunting large animals or achieving victory in combat. In fact, some Bongo effigies are even notched to indicate the number of successful kills achieved by the deceased. The post was raised by the deceased’s relatives usually a year or so after his death in a ceremony accompanied by a large feast. In addition to the central male figure, the grave site may also be decorated with sculptural representations of the deceased’s wives, children, and even victims. The wooden monuments and feast confirm the title and rank attained by the deceased during his lifetime, and ensure that he maintains that place of distinction in the afterlife. The higher the deceased’s status, the more lavish the celebration. During the festivities, relatives and guests recite his accomplishments and genealogy, so that Loma, the Bongo’s Creator God, may evaluate him.
Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art
For more about the Bongo population, whose survival is under serious threat: Gurtong