Figurative Element from Ceremonial Drum [?]: Seated Female and Child

Mbembe peoples

Not on view

This spectral relic of a maternity figure was carved hundreds of years ago by a Mbembe artist working at the confluence of two major sculptural traditions - those of Cameroon and Nigeria. It is one of only a dozen related works that may have been created as early as the seventeenth century making them the oldest wood sculptures to have survived south of the Western Sudan. Each of these figures was originally an integral part of a monumental carved drum positioned at the epicenter of Mbembe spiritual life. The exposure of all of the surviving examples to the elements over extended periods of time has resulted in intensive weathering that has become a dramatic dimension of their aesthetic. This is one of three Mbembe depictions of the subject of mother and child - each of which is unique. This interpretation is striking for the handling of the passage of the child that is rendered extending horizontally across the mother's torso with its legs wrapped around the proper right side of her body emphatically underscoring their intersection.

Figurative Element from Ceremonial Drum [?]: Seated Female and Child, Wood, pigment, resin, nails, Mbembe peoples

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