Treasure of the month
The Leopard Man
This plaster sculpture shows a Leopard Man (anioto) leaning over his sleeping victim. In 1913 the Ministry of Colonies commissioned Paul Wissaert (1885 – 1951) to make this figurative group.
In the early nineteen-thirties rumours began to spread about homicidal leopardman in the Belgian Congo. In the guise of leopards they were said to be responsible for the serial slaying of innocent victims.
This sort of story contributed to the myth of the ‘savage native’ intent on undermining colonial authority. In fact these killings were an isolated phenomenon in a political vendetta. The Leopard Man often proved an efficient instrument of revenge in local power struggles. In 1934-1935 the killings multiplied. The traditional societies were feeling hard-pressed by the increasing power of the colonial administration and the tottering authority of their traditional structures by acts of terror.
The ritual ‘leopard murders’ were confined to the Bali in north eastern Congo.
This figurative group was until end 2013on display in the Central Africa Ethnography hall of the permanent exhibition.