TRIGONOLITHE - ZEMI

TAÏNO – Dominican Republic

1000 – 1500 A.D.

Height : 17.4 cm – Length : 22.5 cm – Width : 12.4 cm

Beige crystalline fossiliferous limestone

Provenance

Former collection Ilya Prigogine since 1960

Galerie Mermoz Collection since 2016

 

Three-pointed anthropomorphic sculpture depicting a stylised figure on his stomach, with the effigy of a zemi.

Zemi can be completely sculpted, as is the case here, and they represent a human figure whose head is disproportionate to the rest of the body.

The face is capped with a cap and is characterized by hollowed out eyes, a rolled-up nose and a wide open toothless mouth. The cavities were intentionally left raw unlike the rest of the sculpture which is polished.

Here, the zemi stands out for the representation of arms and legs, adorned with bracelets, stretched forward and backward to curl up in the ends forming the two lower tips of the sculpture.

The «three-pointed stone», also called trigonolith, represents a zemi (spirit of an ancestor or of nature). The Taino religion seems to have focused on figurines designated under the collective term zemi (or cemi). These statuettes in stone, wood, cotton (containing human remains).

Many zemi represent only one head, some of the emaciated human beings, rarely animals, plants, and they sometimes take a purely geometric form. One of the variants proposes either the figuration of a head, human or animal, at the lower ends.

The profusion of these figurines is explained because there are individual zemi (male or female) and groups (family). The chief (chief of the village) has his own zemi, venerated by the whole community, and each man has a zemi.