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26 October

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


Ceremonial cloth

Ceremonial cloth

Ceremonial cloth, ulos pinunsaan, Indonesia, Sumatra, south-east region of Lake Toba, Toba Batak people, End of the 19th century, cotton, resist dyed warp (warp ikat), supplementary weft weave, natural dyes, 240 x 119cm, Gift of Monique and Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller, 70.2001.27.108

For the Batak people, relationships between men and women are expressed, amongst others, via the act of weaving. The warp (the threads that go along the length of the cloth) are considered female, whilst the weft (the threads that go across the length of the cloth) are considered male. The cloths symbolise the successful fusion of the masculine world and the feminine world. The pinunsaan and ragidup textiles are offered by the bride’s family to the groom’s family. They are like the toba bride that is figuratively referred to as the “clothing that never frays”. The cloth is believed to guarantee the fertility and well-being of the person who receives it. The pinunsaan cloth was the most important of the batak ritual textiles along with the , from which it is technically different. For the pinunsaan, the raw edges are sewn, and not woven, to the central panel. One end panel is considered male and the other end panel is considered female. The male panel is composed of elongated triangular shapes, baoa, whilst the female panel is composed of rhombi shapes, . The woven batak textiles are considered to be feminine objects because they are woven and passed on by women. In the case of weddings, they pass from the bride’s family – the feminine – to the groom’s family – the masculine. Upon the death of the mother, the cloths pass to her daughter. There is no other batak textile which so skillfully expresses the principles of the tripartition of the world and the male-female opposition.