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Three-Headed Figure (Sakimatwemtwe)

Arts of Africa

On View: Special Exhibitions, Egyptian Galleries, 3rd Floor
Art can express our most important values. For the youngest of students to the most senior of elders, art can provide a vision of the ideal world.

This writing board is evidence and expression of devotion and discipline, and a connection to an international community connected by Arabic, the language of the Qur'an. In Sudan, students historically used wood writing boards to practice their Arabic calligraphy and to help them memorize Qur'anic verses. The text written on the front of this board is a verse from the Qur'an, sura 97, which addresses the night of the first revelation of the Qur'an to Muhammad.

The Lega figure called sakimatwemtwe, or "the man with many heads," represents the qualities of equity, wisdom, and discernment that enable its owner to see all sides of an issue and have knowledge of all things going on around him. It would have been owned by a man who belonged to Kindi, the highest level of Bwami, a hierarchical organization through which Lega initiates advance from one state of knowledge to the next.
MEDIUM Wood, fiber, kaolin
DATES 19th century
DIMENSIONS 5 1/2 x 2 x 1 1/8 in. (14 x 5.1 x 2.9 cm)  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
CREDIT LINE Museum Expedition 1922, Robert B. Woodward Memorial Fund
PROVENANCE Prior to 1922, provenance not yet documented; by 1922, acquired by François Poncelet of Brussels, Belgium; 1922, purchased in Brussels from François Poncelet by Stewart Culin for the Brooklyn Museum.
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CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Standing figure carved from a single piece of fine-grained wood with one large central head on an elongated neck and two smaller heads rising out of the shoulders. Each head has a carved face and each of the three faces is oval in shape with small holes for eyes, a larger hole for a mouth, and a long narrow nose beginning at the crown of the forehead. Down the single-body's torso are four notches in succession. The figure's single set of arms are at its sides, but gradually flare away from the body. Legs are apart; fiber cord is around left ankle. Condition: Good
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Special Exhibitions, Egyptian Galleries, 3rd Floor
CAPTION Lega. Three-Headed Figure (Sakimatwemtwe), 19th century. Wood, fiber, kaolin, 5 1/2 x 2 x 1 1/8 in. (14 x 5.1 x 2.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Expedition 1922, Robert B. Woodward Memorial Fund, 22.486. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 22.486_SL1_edited_version.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 22.486_SL1_edited_version.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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