West Africa, Burkina Faso or Ivory Coast, Senufo, ca. early to mid 20th century CE. A lovely, carved wooden female figure that most likely belonged to a male-female pair symbolizing the primordial couple from the Senufo peoples. With a characteristic crescent-shaped coiffure, this piece also shows a finely carved visage, pronounced breasts and buttocks, and minimalist hands and feet. The figure stands upon an integral base, and the wood has developed a rich age patina. As a member of the primordial couple, this figure and her male counterpart would have been taken out for funeral processions to honor the deceased as they entered the spiritual realm. A sweet example with nice patina and spectacular lustrous patina to breasts and other areas from handling. Size: 2.375" W x 8.3" H (6 cm x 21.1 cm)
"In her discussion of the cultural context of Senufo statuary at the occasion of the exhibition Genesis: Ideas of Origin in African Sculpture at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, LaGamma (2002: 30 et seq.) explains: "According to the Senufo account of genesis, Kolotyolo, the creator, gave life to the first man and woman, who became the first human couple. The woman conceived and gave birth to twins, a girl and a boy. [...] The ideal of human male-female duality [...] also informs Senufo conceptions of the divine, especially the bipartite deity that is central to Senufo religious belief. Kolotyolo, the male aspect of divinity responsible for creation and 'bringing us forth,' is a benevolent but relatively remote presence who is balanced by a more accessible female dimension known as Katyeleeo, or Ancient Mother. She is a divine protectress responsive to the needs of the community. Within Senufo society, an optimal relationship with this divinity and the ancestors is assured through Poro, an initiation-based organization whose teachings also prepare members for responsible and enlightened leadership. Participation in Poro is universal among Senufo males, who safeguard their community's social and political welfare by making frequent sacrifices to the ancestors - conceived as past children of Ancient Mother - so that they may intercede on behalf of her current, living children."
Provenance: private New York, New York, USA collection; Ex Collection of Dr. Edward A. Spiegel (1931—2020), Professor of astronomy at New York University and Columbia University who worked on convection theory and on the application of fluid dynamics to astrophysics and was the first to discover Chaos Theory. As a professor, he gained a reputation among his students for his amusing stories of meeting other famous scientists such as Paul Dirac and Stephen Hawking.
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Light nicks and abrasions across surfaces, otherwise intact and very good. Nice patina throughout.