Standing female figure

pre-Dogon culture, Djenennke/Soninke
11th–13th century
more object details

General Description

This figure depicts a tall, slender female of naturalistic proportions who is adorned with beaded necklaces and scarification. Because she is clothed in an apron rather than nude, and posed standing rather than kneeling, she probably represents an important female ancestor. Positioned with her hand framing her rounded abdomen, the figure personifies fecundity and motherhood.

Carved from durable hardwood and preserved in caves on the Bandiagara Escarpment, this figure has surved through the ages; it is one of the oldest wooden sculptures from sub-Saharan Africa. It originated among either the Djennenke or the Soninke, who fled from their homeland in the inland Delta of Mali to escape Muslim invaders from the north. The lustrous surface of this ancient sculpture is the result of innumerable anointments with oil, which it continues to exude. It may have remained in use until the mid-20th century.

Excerpt from

  • Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, Arts of Africa, 2015.

Related Multimedia

Collections smARTphone video; Roz Walker discusses Standing female figure (DMA collection 1974.SC.1), Mali, Pre-Dogon culture, Djennenke or Soninke peoples
Learn about the Djennenke peoples.
Collections smartphone audio related to Standing female figure from28. Mali, Pre-Dogon culture, Djennenke or Soninke peoples, 1974.SC.1, (DMA Collection)