Standing Female Figure (Primary Title)

Unknown (Artist)

19th-20th century
wood, glass beads, string
Ghana, Africa
Overall: 24 × 6 × 6 in. (60.96 × 15.24 × 15.24 cm)
This statue of a woman expresses qualities of womanhood that are esteemed by the Akan people: strength, dignity, and stability. To the Akan, a woman must be "strong and solidly rooted on the earth, but upright on it." The figure's accentuated legs and feet create this effect of strength and firm planting, while its erect posture and long, arching back and neck communicate the vibrant character prized by the Akan. These traits also reflect the respected position of women in their society, for Akan inheritance and leadership are matrilinear. Underscoring this perspective, the figure's firm gesture of its hands on its abdomen signifies woman as the source of life--or as noted in Akan proverbs, "the well of fresh water (future kings)." This statue was made for a shrine altar. Shrine figures are predominantly female, and the shrines themselves deal directly or indirectly with the subject of fertility. Sculptures are placed on the altars along with other materials (staffs, bowls, candles, etc.) and are arranged hieratically, with the largest sculpture holding the greatest importance and given central position. Relative to other Akan figures, this statue is very large and, thereby, of great importance in a shrine context.
Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams Fund
Fortune, Courage, Love: Arts of Africa’s Akan and Kuba Kingdoms from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, William King Museum, Abingdon, Virginia, March 28 - July 12, 2015; Taubman Museum of Art, Roanoke, Virginia, September 26, 2015 - January 3, 2016; Piedmont Arts, Martinsville, Virginia, January 16 - March 6, 2016

Richard B. Woodward, African Art (Richmond, VA: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 1994) pp. 12-13, ill.
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

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