Kneeling Female Figure (Arugba)
Arts of Africa
ART OF PRESENTING GENDER
Art can play a role in articulating and enacting gender identities, both openly and more subtly.
This stool and figure display their respectively male and female bodily sexual characteristics quite directly. The stool would have been used by a Lobi man of high status, with its phallic “foot” protruding to convey his virility and authority. The figure, dedicated to the Yoruba cult of Shango, the orisha (god) of thunder, emphasizes female characteristics of breasts and hairdo. In addition, the bowl held by the figure has sexual and reproductive associations.
The two headrests are everyday objects with the same function, though their differing forms are based on the gender of the user. The blocklike form of the man’s headrest contrasts with the more slender form of the woman’s. Even everyday objects such as these can subtly reinforce a strict, binary concept of gender. In addition to cradling the head and protecting often elaborate coiffures during sleep, headrests also serve as emblems of status.
early 20th century
22 x 7 x 8 in. (55.9 x 17.8 x 20.3 cm) (show scale)
This item is not on view
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Robert A. Mandelbaum
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Possibly Maku, master carver of Erin (died 1915). Kneeling Female Figure (Arugba), early 20th century. Wood, pigment, 22 x 7 x 8 in. (55.9 x 17.8 x 20.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Robert A. Mandelbaum, 82.103a-b. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 82.103a-b_PS2.jpg)
overall, 82.103a-b_PS2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2006
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Kneeling woman figure, holding kola nut bowl, in light colored wood, with coiffure in blue pigment. Necklace with triangular shaped pendant suspended on front and back. Five bracelets on each arm, and a hip girdle. Elongated figure, with hips resting on feet, entire figure on oval base with cross hatch pattern. Sleek and well balanced. Five tiered semi-circles make up coiffure. Face has scarification patterns, eyes also emphasized with geometric patterning. CONDITION: Very good. Crack at base, check up the back and on right side of figure. Lid of calabash bowl (removable) was repaired.
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