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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Mumuye : Female Mumuye Wooden Iagalagana Sculpture
Female Mumuye Wooden Iagalagana Sculpture - PF.4577
Origin: Northeastern Nigeria
Circa: 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 61.75" (156.8cm) high x 8" (20.3cm) wide
Collection: African Art
Medium: Wood

Location: United States
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In a rugged and nearly inaccessible region of northeastern Nigeria, the Mumuye lived in peace and virtual isolation until 1959. Their art was not recognized until 1968, and then it came as a stunning surprise to scholars and art lovers. A quick comparative study of African art instantly reveals the uniqueness of Mumuye sculptures. It is as if their isolation is somehow related to the "purity" of their artistic invention.

Though the Mumuye show great respect for their ancestor statuary does not depict ancestors but the incarnation of tutelary spirits. Through an artist's intent and skills a statue is created which attracts a spirit to inhabit it. In a form of metamorphosis an inanimate object is turned into a receptacle or physical medium for the spirit to interact with the human beings. An individual acquired status and prestige by owning such a statue. In private rituals he would hold the object and converse with it, communicating his wishes through personal dialogue hoping to ensure his further protection. In this sense the tutelary spirit, through the statue, acts as a guardian.

Another extraordinary feature of Mumuye art is the design of the statuary, which is totally unique in African art. This remarkable and remarkably beautiful female is the essence of abstraction, and yet she is very real. Her body is composed of conjoined geometric shapes, accentuated by openwork between body and arms, forming a scroll or spiral around the slender cylindrical bust. With extraordinary talent for sculpting, sparked by pure inspiration, an abstract object becomes both spirit and flesh, human and non-human, radiating a very special power of a remarkable people.
- (PF.4577)


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