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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Djenne : Djenne Terracotta Sculpture of a Priestess
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Djenne Terracotta Sculpture of a Priestess - PF.3291
Origin: Central Mali
Circa: 12 th Century AD to 15 th Century AD
Dimensions: 14.25" (36.2cm) high x 4" (10.2cm) wide
Collection: African Art
Medium: Terracotta

Location: United States
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Mistress of the snakes, this figure's body is all but engulfed by the many snakes which slither over her. It is likely that she is a priestess seeking answers from the snakes who are regarded as reincarnations of ancestors and therefore immortal.

The woman sits with legs tucked under her, braceleted arms with exaggerated hands hold her distended stomach; she appears to be pregnant. Further indications are her protruding navel and pendulous breasts as well as her arms which show ritual scarification, a rite of passage.

Head thrust upward, she stares towards the heavens, mouth gaping as though in a trance. She is seemingly unfazed by the snake sliding into her mouth. Throughout Africa, snakes were highly regarded and revered. Priestesses were generally depicted with a python, signs of eternity were represented by a snake with its tail in its mouth, and further, it was believed that snakes originally provided man with the earth on which to live.

This powerful image serves to reinforce the profound significance of the snake within the Djenne culture an throughout Africa.
- (PF.3291)


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