Akan Female Figure

Embodying Akan ideals of beauty and maternal suitability, this stately female figure represents and houses a spirit wife (blolo-bia). Spirit spouses are invisible mates who live in the supernatural otherworld, the domain of yet-unborn children and the deceased. When carving a form for a spirit spouse, the artist will abide by certain canonical ideals of physical desirability. The figure presented here illustrates them closely: an indrawn, downcast gaze; shapely hips; carefully coiffed hair; and full breasts. The deep black pigmentation is notable, as well as the ridged neck rings – both desirable physical attributes for the Akan. Around the figure’s waist is a low-hanging belt, and a necklace curves across its breasts, which it supports and offers with both hands. The childbearing and nurturing power of women was of paramount importance for the Akan, a profoundly matrilineal culture, and they enshrined their image of motherhood in beautiful sculptures such as this one.

Late 19th/Early 20th Century
Wood, cloth, fiber, beads
Height: 11 in; Width: 3 in (28 cm x 7.6 cm)
Provenance:

Max Itzkovitz, Paris

Dr. Hans-Jochen Krüger, Hamburg

Private Dutch collection

Gallery Nies, Eindhoven

Dorotheum, Vienna, 2021

Item Number:
705
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