Inhabiting the barren cliff sides of the Bandiagara Escarpment, near the great bend in the Niger River, the Dogon people led lives of physical austerity and spiritual wealth. They often performed religious ceremonies in which the arts played a crucial role. Ceremonies known as "rites of passage" mark the major life cycles, such as initiation or celebrations. Used in such rituals, the Dogon art form (including most bronzes) is always laden with rich symbolism, expressing their beliefs.
This precious bronze sculpture is clearly a symbol of fertility, an idea that is globally revered throughout time. Small in scale, the female figure is intricately sculpted to emphasize fertility and delicate femininity. The forehead, long nose, and protruding mouth indicate facial features. She is decorated with bracelets and the layers of tight neck ornaments around her long neck. Without hands or legs, the focus is centered on her breasts and torso, the areas that are often exaggerated and embellished to indicate fertility. Her breasts are voluptuous and esoteric incision patterns are marked on her upper belly. On her protruding belly is an enlarged bellybutton that has a resemblance of a breast, extending the idea of femininity and motherhood. Perhaps such a sculpture functioned as a fertility amulet. The ancient people of the Dogon tribe recognized and cherished the magical power of producing a human life and a soul. And as modern viewers, we can still feel the essence of motherhood and fecundity emanating from this beautiful ancient sculpture.