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master of the symbolic execution - 15th to 16th century
Almost 17 inches tall and made of ivory, this foot tall five inch high figure shows an extraordinary execution scene and it is this certain carvers name piece.You can see the executioner sitting down in front of six severed heads all with grim expressions on their face to show the power of the executioner, you can also see a man kneeling down getting ready to be executed while the executioner raises his ax in preparation.
(Travis Ivancevich)

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Altar to the Hand and Arm
17th and 18th century
This sacred sculpture is a portable altar or shrine. The name derives from the sacrifices made to own powers of success, which are symbolized by the hand and arm. This sculpture uses symmetrical hierarchial compositions which are centered on the king. He is surrounded by lesser members of the court. Two leopards appear at the front and were sacrificed to show power of the king. The figures are stylized and proportions are distorted. The focus is on the head of the king to signify that he is powerful and wise.
(Allie Bailey)





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Mother with children 1000-1500
In the Jenne region of Africa, thousands of sculptures such as the one shown above (about 1ft high), are made from terracotta in the Inland Niger Delta in Mali. This mother is with her children however the babies are adults due to the fact that they have beards. This sculpture is a symbol for a legendary mother instead of a common family. The body is displayed in a stylistic, abstract form with pointed breast, large heads and exaggerated features. The women is adorned with jewelry and body decorations which is common in African cultures.
(Abby Fowler)
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King from Ife

This sculpture is a statue that portrays a sacred king from Ife, Nigeria, that is 1' 6.5" tall and made of zinc and brass. This statue shows flesh-like modeling in the torso and a kind of idealized naturalism in his facial features that approaches portraiture. The king is adorned with a heavily beaded costume, crown, and jewelry that was worn by ancient kings and is still worn by the contemporary kings in Ife. The statue also contains classical elements which shows that Ife people represented people in a natural form.
(Emily Rice)

Ivory Belt mask of a Queen Mother
(mid-16th Century)
This ivory masquette is known to have been worn by a Benin king at his waist. It was created as a symbol of thanks for the mother of Esigie for his mothers role in helping with warfare. The mask probably represents Idia. On the crown we can see that the artist incorporated Portuguese heads and mudfish, symbolic for Benin's trade relationship and Olokum, which is represented by the mudfish, as the "god of the sea". It is also symbolic for wealth and creativity. (Blake Denz)




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Mende Mask: 20th Century
This is a women's dance mask. It was worn by leaders and teachers in iniation rites as well as by leaders and preistesses of women society. The people of the Aftrican society in which this derived from believed that the mask itself had power more than man himself. The purpose of such masks were to move people, affect people, and to iniate change. Some symbolic features of this piece of art are the high forhead which stands for wisdom and success and the neck ridges which were a sign of beauty, wealth, and prosperity.
(Erin Ginn)


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Linguist's Staff, Osei Bonsu, mid 20th century
A linguist of a tribe was the man who would speak for the tribe's chief. The following proverb is supposed to encompass the idea to be portrayed by the staff: "Food is for it rightful owner, not for the one who happens to be hungry." It would be presented in front of the people at a meeting where another man wanted the king's role for himself.
Jordan Brown




The Thunder God Amadioha and his wife, 20th century ( photgraphed in 1966)
These painted clay sculptured are made to show the mixing of modern and traditional cultures. It shows the man wearing modern clothing while the woman is still wearing traditional clothing. The bodies are slightly stylized which is normal for the culture with large heads to show wisdom,aloofness, and power. They also have an elongated torso, and elongated necks. The woman is also shown wearing traditional body paint and a traditional hairstyle.
( CFAW)



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Seated Couple (ca. 1800-1850)

This stylized piece of African couple traces its orgin back to the Dogon tribe in Mali who lived near the bend of the Niger River. This carving cogently documents primary gender roles in traditional African society and was most likely used as a shrine or altar. Male and female are distinguished by the male touching his genital to show dominance. In the Dogon tribe, the more offspring a father had the more masculine he was. The male touches the woman's breast as a symbol of protection. Four stylized figures, who are believed to be either spirits or ancestors, support the stool upon which they sit.
(Tara Lassi)





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ca.1875-1900
Nail Figure, kongo, from shiloango river area, Democratic republic of Congo.
This large male carving is made of wood, nails,blades,medicine materials, and cowerie shell.
It is a Kongo power figure that a trained priest consecrated using ritual formulas. The people believed
that they had spirits would heal and give life or sometimes capable of inflicting harm, disease or even death.
(Yu Ha)




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Reliquary guardian figure (mnulu-ngulu) 19th to early 20th century

This reliquary figure is made of wood, copper, iron, and brass and is native to Gabon. Reliquary figures were very important in African society because they protected bones and other collections of the body from ancestors that had passed. These collections were kept in containers and the reliquary figures were placed on top of the containers. This reliquary figure has an extremely stylized body covered in various metals. The gleaming surfaces were believed to repel evil. The head itself is simplified with a flattened hairstyle. Texture is added to the figure through the use of subdivisions, geometric ridges and borders.~ Allison Abernathy



Akua'ba_by_Osei_Bonsu,_Kumasi,_ca._1935.jpg"Akua'ba'' by Osei Bonsu. ca. 1935. This "doll" is made of wood, beads and pigment. In this figure, the "ideal child" is portrayed. This particular tribe had a preference for girls and women. This originates from a story about a woman who had trouble conceiving and had ordered that this carving be made after a priest told her to do so. She was told to treat it as a "sacred" idol and essentially a child, by giving it gifts and carrying it with her. -Ciana Miller