Female Figure


Bamana Artist, Mali


seventeenth or eighteenth century




4 x 1 3/4 x 1 1/4 inches


Purchase with funds from the Friends of African Art in memory of Margaret Knopfelmacher

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This small, elegant sculpture in the form of a seated female figure, now fragmentary, comes from the Bamana region of Mali, West Africa. Passages from a praise poem suggest how women of extraordinary accomplishment are regarded in Bamana society: “If you are not afraid of females, Master . . . If you are not afraid of females . . . You are not afraid of anything!” Indicators of the importance of the woman portrayed in this work include her seated posture and the use of iron. Iron is considered a particularly potent material in Bamana communities. The men who work as blacksmiths have crucial responsibilities and are highly regarded. Iron sculpture is a particularly charged art form related to the history of Bamana state-building dating back to the seventeenth century, following the decline of the Mali Empire, which flourished from the early thirteenth century to ca. 1600.

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