African Maternity Figure

The striated hair style of the mother and child on this figurine points to the statue being from the Senufo people of the Ivory Coast area.  A maternity theme figurine is more than just an ordinary mother and child statue.  In many African culture, the infant is thought to represent a female ancestor, the mother of this people.  On this sculpture, the proportion of the infant, together with signs of physical maturity, reflect the continuity of the life cycle, for the newborn is believed to have come from the ancestors.

As newborns are felt to be especially close to the ancestors, they can only be weaned away by ritual and time to human status.  Newborn figures also lie in the primary concern of the ancestral cult in fertility.  An infantile representation is an apt expression of the desire for children.  This maternity figurine is celebrated by showing the mother sitting on a stool, a seat of honor.

A statue of mother and infant seems to be quite rare as information is hard to find.  This superbly carved piece was not bought in a tourist shop.  It is from a collector who grew up spending a lot of time in Central Africa, staying with relatives and eventually acquired real estate there.  She bought this statue from natives who would only sell to trusted collectors and not to tourists.  This figurine is finely aged, showing varied deep brown patina with areas of kaolin and red ochre pigment.  With such antiquity shown, we believe this maternity figure is quite rare.