Overall: 19.7 cm (7 3/4 in.)
John L. Severance Fund 1985.199
While we don’t know who made this work, it can be hypothesized that it was a woman; today, as in much of Africa, potters in Mali are female.
Raised circles cover this figure, possibly symptoms of a disease, or even its cure. The figure rests its chin on its knee, eyes downcast as its tubular limbs wrap around one another. Djenné-Djenno is the oldest known city in sub-Saharan Africa, and flourished from the 9th century until its abandonment around 1400. Despite this long history, figures like this leave us much to wonder about. Most were found washed up along riverbeds, and little archaeological information has been gained about their makers. Scholars speculate that figures like this represent ancestors, mythic characters, or even functioned as guardians. Despite knowing little about the subject of this figure, or its intended use, we can still relate to the artist’s sensitive depiction of illness and introspection.
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