Genesis: Ideas of Origin in African Sculpture

November 19, 2002–July 6, 2003

Theories about the Creation of Humanity

Theories about the creation of humanity were considered through works from the Yoruba, Dogon, Senufo, Bobo, and southern African traditions. According to Yoruba belief, Ife was the site where humans were molded in clay by the divine sculptor Obatala. The world of myth merges with history in a delicately sculpted and sensitive terracotta portrait from the twelfth century that was unearthed at Ile-Ife, an ancient city-state in present-day Nigeria (private collection). The Senufo attribute the creation of the world and the origins of life to the god Kolotyolo, whose first human creations were a man and woman who became husband and wife. A pair of nearly life-size abstractly hewn wood male and female figures carved by a Senufo master carver (Côte d'Ivoire) during the last century recall this ideal pairing and essential partnership (private collection).