Bambara Maternity Figure, Mali, c.1950
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37 x 8 x 11 in
Dogon maternity figures like this one represent the mythical ancestor and, symbolically, the feminine ideals of beauty and fertility. In their original context, this kind of wooden statue would have been used on a shrine to ensure births and prosperity to the village. On the shrine, these figures would be covered in sacrificial libations, which over time and repeated use would result in a crystalline patina covering the sculpture. In the case of this sculpture, these libations were either cleaned off or the sculpture was never used for this traditional purpose. Regardless, the sculpture is a beautiful example of the sculptural work of Mali and the perseverance of aboriginal culture during the period of French colonization.