Unlike some African tribal groups who market their indigenous arts and crafts, the Zigua tribe of Tanzania does not. As a result their art has not been thoroughly researched and documented and is poorly understood. The figure most identified with them is this fetish, often called a "mummy" fetish, but the Pare tribe of Tanzania makes similar figures. Based on our research, we are identifying this figure as Tanzanian and almost certainly Ziguan. The carving has an exposed wooden face with a perplexed expression, rough surfaces on the cloth wrappings and a distinctly resinous smell, reminiscent of burnt charcoal, when held to one's nose.
These fetishes are made by carving a figure out of local wood and then wrapping it in strips of cloth. Finally, it is saturated with a "magical' substance, a secret resin or liquid, by a shaman or spiritual leader of the tribe to achieve the mummified appearance. There are various theories about the use of these fetishes, such as protection from evil spirits or for use during healing rites, to name two. Though these fetishes share certain characteristics, each is one of a kind and there are not many of them for sale.
This figure is 14 1/2 inches tall, 4 inches wide at the shoulders and weighs 2 pounds 7 ounces. It's been mounted on a 3 inch square black metal base so it stands firmly on any flat surface. There is a number written on the bottom of the base; it is the number assigned to the carving in a past collector's inventory. The piece is in excellent condition, bearing only minor scars from use and a lovely aged patina. Given that fetishes like these are kept and used by members of the tribe, this is a rare chance to own this African work of art.