Figure

About this object

History of use

The Makonde were a matriarchal, agricultural society. Traditionally, it is thought, the sculpture of the Makonde was restricted to ceremonial and ritual goods. Shetani spirits or creatures, now seen in contemporary Makonde sculpture, were probably unknown before the advent of commercial art production in the mid-1950's. Tales of encounters with these rarely seen spirits or creatures were part of Makonde mythology and folklore and may have served as artistic inspiration for the pieces.

Cultural context

Commercial art.

Physical description

Naturalistic head with a small semi-abstract figure sitting on top. The lower figure has a tubular lip plug inserted through its upper lip, a straight nose, large rounded oval eye sockets, and rough striations on top of the head to depict hair. The small figure consists of a torso, a small head with one eye, a nose, a large toothless mouth, and one leg and arm. Leg coils to the right over the forehead of the lower figure, curves up, and then melds with its own head. Its one arm rests on the left side of the lower figure's head.