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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Mambila : Mambila Terracotta Sculpture of a Woman
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Mambila Terracotta Sculpture of a Woman - CK.0340
Origin: Eastern Nigeria/Cameroon
Dimensions: 29.25" (74.3cm) high x 11.5" (29.2cm) wide
Collection: African Art
Medium: Terracotta

Location: United States
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Terracotta sculptures among the Mambila are quite rare. Although most wooden sculptures represent ancestor figures, it is believe terracotta sculptures such as this one ensured fertility and offered protection against evil forces. This figure is rendered in the characteristic Mambila style, featuring the prominent heart-shaped face. The flat nose and round eyes are also typical Mambila facial features. Often, sculptures are finished with a layer of white chalk that both enhances the beauty of the work and heightens its spiritual powers. Remnants of chalk are still visible on the face of this figure. She holds her hands alongside her chin in a gesture that might be related to its specific healing powers. However, perhaps the most distinctive feature of this sculpture is her unusual stomach. This odd shape might suggest that this figure suffers from a physical ailment. In Africa, birth defects were often believed to be a good omen. Those who lived with deformities were often believed to be blessed by the spirits and in possession of enhanced supernatural powers. Given the nature of this work as a healing aid, this figure may likely represent a dwarf or hunchback. Yet while whatever tribal powers this sculpture once harnessed has vanished, we can appreciate it for its overwhelming artistry. Although she no longer communicates with the spiritual world, surely his charm and beauty will enhance our lives and heal our souls. - (CK.0340)


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