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Female Figure

African Art

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Female Figure

Artwork Details


Bamana Artist, Mali


seventeenth or eighteenth century



Accession #



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Currently Not on View


This small, elegant sculpture in the form of a seated female figure, now fragmentary, comes from the Bamana region of Mali, West Africa. Passages from a praise poem suggest how women of extraordinary accomplishment are regarded in Bamana society: “If you are not afraid of females, Master . . . If you are not afraid of females . . . You are not afraid of anything!” Indicators of the importance of the woman portrayed in this work include her seated posture and the use of iron. Iron is considered a particularly potent material in Bamana communities. The men who work as blacksmiths have crucial responsibilities and are highly regarded. Iron sculpture is a particularly charged art form related to the history of Bamana state-building dating back to the seventeenth century, following the decline of the Mali Empire, which flourished from the early thirteenth century to ca. 1600.


Purchase with funds from the Friends of African Art in memory of Margaret Knopfelmacher