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

Unlike the frontal gaze seen in most African sculpture of humans, this male figure turns his head to his right. The meaning of this gesture is unclear, and has been variously interpreted as a sign of respect or as a position required for the tableau described below. It could represent the method of addressing a more important person in Bamana culture, whereby a person of lower status approaches from the left and turns slightly towards the dignitary being addressed.

This figure was carved for the Gwan society. A branch of Jo, a traditional institution related to maintenance of harmonious social, spiritual and economic relations, Gwan focuses on issues of fertility. The society commissions mother-child sculptures called gwandusu, an example of which is also in the Lang collection (M84-003), and standing figures of males and females. In the annual ceremony, Gwan sculptures are removed from their shrines, cleaned and oiled, and displayed in a group in the village square. While a figure like gwandusu has pride of place, other standing figures, such as this one, are grouped around her and her male counterpart.

It is unclear whether this figure is a blacksmith holding an axe or a musician with a gong. He wears a helmet-like hat and scarification marks on his face and neck. The fact that his eyes are closed, coupled with the turn of his head, suggest an attitude of respect and homage, suitable for a Gwan display of Bamana ideals of behaviour.

 
Unknown Maker
Bamana peoples Bamana peoples
Standing Male Figure Standing Male Figure
20th century 20th century
wood, pigment wood, pigment
height / width / depth: 98.00 x 21.00 x 23.00 cm; 38.58 x 8.27 x 9.06 in.
Gift of Justin and Elisabeth Lang, 1984 Gift of Justin and Elisabeth Lang, 1984
M84-083

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