Nursing Woman with Child

Location: not on view
You can copy, modify, and distribute this work, all without asking permission. Learn more about CMA's Open Access Initiative.

Download, Print and Share

Did You Know?

The mother’s face, adorned with incisions and markings, resembles that of women who have reached puberty.


Beyond its specific depiction of a mother nursing her child, this sculpture symbolizes a larger concept of ancestral motherhood that is central to Senufo society, in which cultural inheritance is matrilineal. The darkened areas of wood come from oils applied to its surface as both libations and surface protectants. In some Senufo beliefs, one of the most important founding ancestors is the Great Mother or Ancient Woman (Katyeleeo or Maleeo). In groups that believe in the Great Mother, she suckles male initiates with the "milk of knowledge." Through this process, youths gain the information they need to become adults (that is, fully human). The simplified appearance of the "child" in this sculpture reflects his unformed, pre-initiated state.
Nursing Woman with Child

Nursing Woman with Child


Africa, West Africa, Côte d'Ivoire, reportedly Korhogo area, Senufo-style carver

Visually Similar Artworks

Contact us

The information about this object, including provenance, may not be currently accurate. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email

To request more information about this object, study images, or bibliography, contact the Ingalls Library Reference Desk.

All images and data available through Open Access can be downloaded for free. For images not available through Open Access, a detail image, or any image with a color bar, request a digital file from Image Services.