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Dan Maternity Figure Child on Back 34 Inch Cote d'Ivoire Africa

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Product #: 90286
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Title Dan Maternity Figure Child on Back 34 Inch Cote d'Ivoire Africa
Type of Object Carving, sculpture, statue, figure
Country of Origin Cote d'Ivoire/Liberia
People Dan
Materials Wood
Approximate Age second 20th century
Dimensions 34 inches H. x 10 inches W. x 8.5 inches D.
Overall Condition Fair to good. Some of our beads have traveled at least three continents, and have graced numerous owners. Small chips, corrosion, and pitting are a normal part of their patina attesting to their age and extensive use.
Damage/Repair cracks in head, to the back , chipped mouth

Additional Information: A remarkably large and beautiful maternity figure of a mother carrying her child on the back.

Sculpted female figures with a child on their back among the Dan exemplify the ideas of fertility and continuity of the family. These figures are known as ‘lu me’ or wooden person and can be over 60 centimeters in height. They do not portray ancestors but are stylized portraits of real individuals closely representing the hairstyle, body markings, and physiognomy of the wife. These sculptures are superb examples of Dan sculpture and were often the work of well-known artists who worked in secret away from women and children as they carved the lu me figures. In some instances ‘lu me’ sculptures are made public to the village during a ceremony in which the man who commissioned the carving is recognized and gaining social prestige. These figures may also be kept in small houses and only publicly shown on special occasions.

This figure is shown carrying a child on her back in a traditional and sculpturally classical fashion. She stands with great strength reflecting her status as a mature woman who has borne children and achieved recognized social status. Her body is replete with the complex markings of elaborate scarification indicating her status and wealth. These body markings are practices that are rarely followed today therefore the figure is a true example of sculpture as practiced in the past carved with great skill and attention to detail. She is also wearing carved bracelets and eg bands that indicate her wealth and status. The ‘child’ at her back is alert and more an adult than a baby and has similar markings on her face. Her face and ears are well carved and shown in detail. Dan women are recognized for their strong personalities, and this is evident in her stance and body form.

Similar figures are found among the Bassa, relatives of the Dan. The have absorbed much of Dan culture, including the usage and appearance of their arts. Bassa figures are more angular than Dan figures. But in many cases it is difficult to distinguish Dan works to that from the Bassa. Among the Bassa the use of maternity statues like ours, while perhaps obvious, might have had additional magical uses as well. Statues are thought to be hidden and not, as far as we know, used ritually by the village as a whole. They are personal in nature, and thus each one has a unique meaning.

Recommended Reading:

E. Fischer and Hans Himmelheber; The Arts of the Dan in West Africa, (Zurich, 1984)

I have examined this piece and agree with the description.
Niangi Batulukisi, PhD,.