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

Anthropomorphic sculpture

Anthropomorphic sculpture

Female figure, Tonga, early 19th century, Wood, 36.8 x 11cm, SG.56.127

This carved wooden statuette represents a standing female figure, with her arms by the sides of her body. Her feet rest on a small circular base, characteristic of Tongan sculptures. Her facial features are clearly carved in the wood. This figure may be a representation of the god Hikule'o, invoked by royal families during illness or when sacrileges had been committed. Hikule'o, like Sakaunu, was a god of the underworld. European explorers, such as Jules S. Dumont D'Urville, discovered some of these sculptures in the tombs of chiefs. The sculpture would have originally worn tapa, a material made from beaten tree bark, around its waist to mask its nudity. An engraved list of the objects kept in his office by Dominique Vivant Denon, founder of the Napoleon Museum – the Louvre today – gives evidence of this original state of the artefact and of its early arrival in France in 1825. Besides its protective function, the tapa cover would have also harnessed divine powers. In Tonga and Fiji, the majority of the known wooden and sperm whale ivory figures are female.