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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Masterpieces of African Art : Kulango Sculpture of a Seated Woman
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Kulango Sculpture of a Seated Woman - PF.5926
Origin: Ghana
Circa: 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 36.5" (92.7cm) high x 7.75" (19.7cm) wide
Collection: African
Medium: Wood and Paint

Additional Information: as

Location: Great Britain
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We are immediately struck by the fantastical proportions of this stunning sculpture. Her limbs have been elongated beyond exaggeration. Her scared breast fall from her chest in two gentle arches that appear to mimic bananas. Her buttocks project outwards and almost cover the entire stool. Her neck, decorated with two rows of scars on each side, has been stretched to its limit. She holds her hands outward, both cupped to hold possible offerings or sacrificial libations. It is clear from both the proportions and the posture that this figure represents an elite queen mother. Stools were the penultimate symbol of rank and authority in tribal Africa. This figure sits proudly upon her throne, elegantly carved and painted white. Overall, the work is encrusted with a thick patina most evident along her hands and shoulders no doubt accumulated from years of ritual use. However, this sculpture has been covered over in paint. The use of commercial paint occurs in African art only after the arrival of European colonists. While paint is most often associated with brightly colored colonial works specifically created for the tourist trade, in a few rare cases, tribal sculptures proven to be particularly powerful were honored by being painted over. Clearly, these are not the bright hues that appeal to the tastes of tourists, but dark black with blue and red highlights that most likely had symbolic significance and increased the powerful energy of the piece. Her patinated hands are covered in blue while her fingernails and toenails are painted red, imitating the style of Western women and enhancing her beauty. Who is this mysterious woman? She is a fertile mother evident by her extraordinary breasts and swelling belly. She is a royal queen revealed by her body scarification, her intricately braided coiffure, and her stool. All these elements are symbols of elite status in tribal Africa. Lastly she is a sacred priestess capable of communicating with the spiritual world shown by her outstretched hands, her encrusted patina resulting from ritual use, and the honored coat of paint that served to increase her spiritual strength. - (PF.5926)


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