44 3/4 x 9 x 8 3/4 inches
Gift of The Brown Foundation, Inc.Arts of Africa
The Mumuye of northeastern Nigeria are an elusive people who created unique works of art. This abstract statue, characterized by undulating arms, long torso, and stylized legs, creates a sense of lyrical rhythm and movement. Examples the size and quality of this male figure, or iagalagana, are extremely rare.
Living in an area difficult to access, the Mumuye were first known to the French in 1892 but remained isolated until 1950. Mumuye statues were invoked in divination and healing rituals, for the mediation of disputes, and to bring rain. They were kept in shrines by important people of the village such as healers and rainmakers, who communicated with them. Made of perishable wood, figures like this one are highly sought-after. Comparable works of art are found in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Beyeler Museum in Basel, Switzerland.