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Maternity Figure

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unknown Yoruba
Yoruba Primary

Maternity Figure

Late 19th century - early 20th century
Wood with pigment

24 1/2 in. x 10 1/2 in. x 9 in. (62.23 cm x 26.67 cm x 22.86 cm)
Gift of Mace Neufeld and Helen Katz Neufeld, Class of 1953

Bryn Mawr College
Accession Number: 99.5.8
Other Number(s): 82-24 (Neufeld Collection Number)
32 (Sotheby's Lot Number)
Geography: Africa, Nigeria
Classification: Ceremonial and Performance Artifacts; Ritual Objects
Culture/Nationality: Yoruba, Nigerian, West African, African
Collection: Neufeld Collection
The sculptural theme of mother and child is common among the Yoruba. This sculpture may represent the sacrifices a mother makes to maintain the health of her child, or perhaps her joy at its ability to thrive.

The figure's red color may be a metaphor for life force, while the green color may represent serenity and composure. The mother's kneeling pose indicates worship and devotion, and her grasping of her own breasts suggests both fertility and protection. In contrast to the finished figure of the mother, the carving of the infant is intentionally rough; because the child has not yet undergone rites of passage, his status in Yoruba society is that of an immature or unfinished being.

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Additional Image 99.5.8_BMC_f_2.jpg
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<ref name=BMC>cite web |url= |title=Maternity Figure |author=Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections |accessdate=7/24/2021 |publisher=Bryn Mawr College</ref>

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