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Squatting Male Figure

Arts of Africa


These five artworks from throughout Africa display the range of approaches artists have taken to figural representation. They prove that the Western tradition of naturalism—depicting the body precisely as observed in life—is not even remotely the only possibility open to an artist.

The Mossi mask celebrates the female form. While it is not an exact replica of the body, the proportions are relatively balanced.

The Yoruba tapper, used with a board to draw images during divinations, was carved with more exaggerated proportions, owing to both the shape of the ivory from which it was carved and the functional requirements of the object.

The Fang figure has primarily been reduced to a series of cylinders and circles. The legs and hips are conceived as the intersection of two perpendicular cylinders, echoing the cylindrical reliquary box on which the figure sat.

The small Nsapo-Nsapo work and the Salampasu figure take the abstraction of the human form even further by greatly exaggerating the proportions. The Nsapo-Nsapo figure’s thin, extended arms and the Salampasu sculpture’s outthrust chest and flexed shoulders suggest different emotional states for these two protective figures—a tense anxiety, perhaps, in one and a tense readiness in the other.
CULTURE Nsapo-Nsapo
MEDIUM Wood, copper alloy, glass beads, fiber, organic materials
DATES late 19th century
DIMENSIONS 7 1/2 x 1 3/4 x 2 in. (19.1 x 4.4 x 5.1 cm)  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
CREDIT LINE Purchased with funds given by Frieda and Milton F. Rosenthal and Carll H. de Silver Fund
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Standing figure of deep reddish-brown glossy tone. The legs are large and slightly flexed, a pronounced concave torso and very elongated arms with elbows resting on knees and hands touching chin. Oval head with beard and two pointed horns emerging from top. Face is carefully delineated with pointed chin, triangular nose, heavy-lidded eyes. The figure has large feet and stands on its own base, which is decorated with 15 brass tacks. A triple strand of glass beads, white and very light green, decorate the neck. Condition: good. Small round opening at top of hairline, another one on back between shoulders. Tip of right horn broken off and separate. Surface of figure sticky in some areas.
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Nsapo-Nsapo. Squatting Male Figure, late 19th century. Wood, copper alloy, glass beads, fiber, organic materials, 7 1/2 x 1 3/4 x 2 in. (19.1 x 4.4 x 5.1 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased with funds given by Frieda and Milton F. Rosenthal and Carll H. de Silver Fund, 80.100. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 80.100_threequarter_SL1.jpg)
IMAGE 80.100_threequarter_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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