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19 April

feminity, fertility

In non-western cultures, female effigies often incarnate ancestors.

In connection with the spirit world, of which they are guardians, they also represent goddess-mothers or goddesses who can be wild, protective, bearers of wisdom, noble or hieratic, graceful or sensual, and which are usually symbols of fertility.

With regard to the portrayal of motherhood, a recurring theme in African art, this refers to the idea of continuing the family or clan lineage, and to the transmission of knowledge.

  • Hooks

  • Anthropomorphic sculpture

  • Commemorative effigy

  • Ceremonial cloth

  • A Maam man attacking a pregnant woman

  • Statuette depicting a mother and her child

  • Statuette depicting the goddess Kankalinmata

  • Manasa, the goddess of snakes

  • Anthropomorphic mask

  • Anthropo-zoomorphic mask

  • Motherhood

  • Motherhood

  • Helmet mask

  • Female statuette

  • Cup bearer

  • Shadow puppet, Sita under her tree

  • Ritual doll

  • Chalchiuhtlicue

  • Anthropomorphic statuette: motherhood

  • Hunchback female figurine

  • Female figurine


Commemorative effigy

Commemorative effigy

Ancestral effigy, Indonesia, Sumatra, Barus, Toba Batak people, 19th century, Stone, 112 x 76 x 47cm, Ancient collection of Barbier-Mueller, Museum, Geneva, 70.2001.27.585

The Toba people live to the south, south east and south west of Lake Toba in the province of Sumatera Utara (North Sumatra). The Batak culture would have originated on the island of Samosir, and more specifically at the “mountain at the centre of the world”, Pusuk Buhit Mount, located on its west side. The Toba people gave special attention to the lithic statue as is demonstrated by the effigy of Ronggur ni Ari, a "clap of thunder”, daughter of the Barutu clan. The statue was completed during her lifetime by an unknown artist. Her husband, the chief and magician Ompu Raja Ranjo Simanjutak, commissioned this sculpture to honour his wife and to signify her prestige. Her wealth is symbolised by the seat, decorated with leaves and elegant interwoven lines, upon which is sat Boru Barutu. On her left arm she wears a large spiral bracelet and on her right hand she wears two rings, one on her thumb and the other on her index finger. Her ears are decorated with oval hoop earrings, undoubtedly a variation of the duri duri made by the Toba people. In her hands she holds a rectangular box which contains betel leaves and a round box which holds harvested limes. Boru Barutu wears a chignon decorated with leaves and the hole would have served as a place to plant sacred plants. Although the features of the woman are not clearly defined, her slightly rounded cheek expresses a concern for realism. The symbolism of the alternating red and black bands that would originally have covered part of the body is unknown.