This piece features a seated woman, breastfeeding an infant with a child on her back. The item has a gorgeous glossy patina, and has subtle blue and white pigments throughout the bowl’s geometric design on top of her head. Yoruba sculptures often depict female figures accompanied by children and are made for shrines and dedicated to various deities.
Yoruba Maternity Bowl Figure 16″ – Nigeria – African Art
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Imperfections and wear and tear including minor scuffing and dings.
About the Yoruba People
The Yoruba are the largest cultural group on the African continent, with nearly 40 million people. The word ‘Yoruba’ describes both the language and a tribe living across Nigeria and the Popular Republic of Benin, in an area of forest and savannah.
The Yoruba people’s primary living space is South-West Nigeria with substantial Yoruba communities in Benin, Togo and Sierra Leone but they are not bound by state or country borders. This area is often referred to as “Yorubaland”. Most of the terrain is either forest, woodland savannah, rich farmland or coastal swamps and lagoons.
The origin of the Yoruba people in Nigeria is heavily debated. Some believe they came from the east in Mecca, some say from the north in Egypt. Evidence shows that ethnically, Yoruba’s have been in the area known as Yorubaland since the 7th century BC. Scholars believe the area was probably inhabited earlier by peoples of the Nok culture. Yorubaland covers the modern-day countries of Nigeria, Togo and Benin. The term Yoruba to describe ethnicity, did not come about until the 16th century and wasn’t widely used until the 19th century. Before then, the Yoruba people were known by many names depending on who was acknowledging them. For instance, the Europeans referred to them as Akú, whereas in Cuba, they were referred to as O luku mi.
Read more about the Yoruba here.
About this Female Offering Figure
This style of sculpture, with a kneeling female holding a bowl, sometimes with child, is a symbol of honor and offering. The bowls were meant to hold kola nuts which were offered to visitors or as shrine containers for offerings to an orisa (spirit). Some were meant to hold palm nuts used in Ifa divination.