Echoing Images: Couples in African Sculpture

LaGamma, Alisa (2004)

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Echoing Images: Couples in African Sculpture

Idealized pairings have been an enduring concern of sculptors in many sub-Saharan African cultures. This exhibition examines the theme through approximately sixty works of sculpture in wood, bronze, terracotta, and beadwork, dating from the twelfth to the twentieth century. The sculptures on view were created by artists from thirty different regional traditions, including the Dogon and Bamana of Mali; the Senufo and Baule of Côte d'Ivoire, the Yoruba of Nigeria, the Mangbetu and Zande of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Sakalava and Vezo of Madagascar.

Among the exhibition's highlights is the Primordial Couple, a freestanding wood sculpture of a seated male and female couple created by a Dogon master. Dating to as early as the sixteenth century, this masterpiece is one of the most beloved icons in the Metropolitan's African collection. Given the work's scale and complexity, scholars have suggested that it was created to honor a Dogon elder. The figures are eloquently unified by the male figure's gesture, reaching his right arm around his partner's neck and resting his hand on her breast. This seminal work gives expression to the idea of man and woman as an elemental unit of life, and served as a bridge between the Museum's permanent collection and the works on loan for the exhibition...