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Unknown Maker
Standing Male Figure Standing Male Figure
19th-20th century 19th-20th century

The Mumuye peoples live south of the Benue River, in north-eastern Nigeria. This work is typical of their figural sculptures, with its particular abstract approach to the human body. The fluid arrangement of the shoulders and long arms frames an elongated torso with prominent navel. Topping the small head is a single crest, while the schematic face is framed by large flaps that may indicate a helmet, rather than the distended pierced earlobes traditionally favoured by females. The arms flare into a curved shape with small slits to indicate fingers. Two triangular notches on the front and back of the legs give a sense of slightly bent knees.

Lack of documentation makes it difficult to definitively classify the functions of Mumuye statuary; however, it is likely that figures such as this one played important roles in divination. Often activated through the application of powerful substances, wooden sculptures fortified the efficacy of leaders and specialists. They were also called on to ascertain the integrity of statements made in judicial trials and assist with the detection of criminals. This connection with human and supernatural authority may account for their highly abstract form.

 
Unknown Maker
Mumuye peoples Mumuye peoples
Standing Male Figure Standing Male Figure
19th-20th century 19th-20th century
wood, white pigment wood, white pigment
height / width / depth: 83.00 x 16.00 x 13.50 cm; 32.68 x 6.30 x 5.31 in.
Gift of Justin and Elisabeth Lang, 1984 Gift of Justin and Elisabeth Lang, 1984
M84-069

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