The Seated III

Wangechi Mutu Kenyan-American

Not on view

The Seated I (MMA 2020.119) and III are two of four sculptures created by Mutu for The Met's facade in September 2019, part of a commission titled The NewOnes, will free Us. They consist of kneeling female figures, simultaneously celestial and humanoid in character, cast in bronze, each a mirror image of the other. They are graced with a variety of embellishments, from coils to polished discs, that recall customs practiced by high-ranking African women, such as beaded bodices, circular necklaces, lip plates, crowns, hair styles, and skull elongation. The sculptures take a great deal of inspiration from the tradition of female load-bearers, sometimes referred to as caryatids, which are frequently but not always women carved out of stone or wood. Female load-bearers appear in various guises across times and places, and they are omnipresent in The Met's Greek, African, American, and European collections. In the case of these two works, Mutu has staged a feminist intervention into the history of the female load-bearer, liberating her figures from the tasks they were historically assigned to perform, that of supporting something or someone else, whether a building or a male king. Belonging to no one time or place, The Seated I and III are stately, resilient, and self-possessed, announcing their authority and autonomy.

The Seated III, Wangechi Mutu (Kenyan-American, born Nairobi, 1972), Bronze

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