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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Kissi : African Art / Kissi Soapstone Nomoli Sculpture of a Standing Man
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African Art / Kissi Soapstone Nomoli Sculpture of a Standing Man - PF.6153
Origin: Guinea/Sierra Leone
Circa: 16 th Century AD to 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 8.25" (21.0cm) high
Collection: African
Medium: Soapstone

Location: United States
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The Kissi people revere stone anthropomorphic carvings found in fields and rivers in an area located around the Sewa and Mano Rivers. They are called Nomoli. These carvings are extremely old and it was not until 1959 that Western scholars associated them with the so-called Afro-Portuguese ivory objects carved by artists of the Sapi kingdom. Although the Sapi kingdom collapsed in the 16th century, their art survived buried beneath the ground. Occasionally, these ancient works would be accidentally unearthed, usually through flooding or farming. Kissi artists would often rework the Sapi sculptures, resulting in a multitude of variations of types and styles. This sculpture depicts what appears to be a pregnant man. Needless to say, this is not a representation of a scientific phenomenon, but instead the symbolic depiction of his spiritual fertility. However, it may represent a man suffering from the disease known as ascites, of which abdominal distention is a symptom. In this case, the sculpture would act as a medicinal tool. Libations would be paid to the work in order to cure an individual suffering from ascites. Pombo sculptures were believed to house ancient spirits. According to Kissi belief, these sculptures acted as intermediaries between the living and their deceased ancestors. They would be worshiped on small altars or in deep bowls. The holes carved into the stomach and head of this figure suggest that magical substances were placed inside in order to activate the spiritual powers of the work. This sculpture, a literal relic of the past, continues to communicate with the lost world left behind. Magically unearthed, it is a gift from the past to the present. Surely, this sculpture was as revered by the Kissi villagers who discovered it as by the Sapi artists who crafted it. - (PF.6153)


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