This enigmatic monolithic sculpture of a reductivist human form has been connected to the Djenne people, part of the mediaeval Mali Empire. It is very simple yet well proportioned, with a columnar, swelling body giving the impression of corpulence. The eyes are simple round eminences, the nose comparatively elongated and broad. There is no obvious mouth.
This remarkable object may well be a Djenne piece, but bears characteristics that are more usually found in Ekoi monoliths, in the Niger River Delta. The lack of detail makes an exact attribution uncertain. Ekoi pieces are of considerable antiquity and are usually buried up to the “neck”, and regularly libated. Their original significance is unknown, as the oldest examples are about 1800 years old, but they were more recently considered to be representatives of ancestors who could be appealed to in times of need.
This reductive masterwork is a unique and imposing piece of ancient sculpture that would look equally at home in a collection or sophisticated domestic setting.
- (SP.598 (LSO))