Figure of Mother and Child (Phemba)
Arts of Africa
On View: African Storage Annex, East Gallery, 1st Floor
Such sculptures of a mother nursing her child may have been used to increase or aid fertility. The mirror-covered cavities in the infant’s abdomen and the mother’s back were intended to hold protective medicines.
Wood, beads, glass mirror, metal, resin
11 x 5 x 4 1/2 in. (27.9 x 12.7 x 11.4 cm) (show scale)
Museum Expedition 1922, Robert B. Woodward Memorial Fund
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Kongo (Yombe subgroup). Figure of Mother and Child (Phemba), 19th century. Wood, beads, glass mirror, metal, resin, 11 x 5 x 4 1/2 in. (27.9 x 12.7 x 11.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Expedition 1922, Robert B. Woodward Memorial Fund, 22.1138. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 22.1138_threequarter_PS2.jpg)
3/4, 22.1138_threequarter_PS2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2006
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Carved wooden mother and child. Mother, who is nursing child, is seated cross-legged, supporting child's head with right hand and legs with left hand. She has high, spade-like headdress, open protruding mouth revealing filed teeth, and glass eyes with black pupils. Ears are carved spatially and have pink bead earrings strung on wire through ear lobes. Over much of shoulders and back are scarification marks. Above breasts are a band and a necklace. Infant child, with mirror in center of abdomen, has hand on mother's stomach. Second mirror is attached with four nails to lower part of mother's back. There is a deep crack running down the figure of the mother from below her chin through the torso. Other cracks throughout figure and base. Often old crack repairs open up again and need to be refilled.
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