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13 / The Body

Male and Female Twin Figures (flanitokelew)
Male and Female Twin Figures (flanitokelew)
Artist / Origin Bamana artist, Kala, Mali
Region: Africa
Date 20th century
Material Wood, metal
Medium: Sculpture
Dimensions (Male) H: 14 in. (35.6 cm.), W: 5 in. (12.7 cm.), D: 4 ½ in. (11.4 cm.); (Female) H: 13 7/8 in. (35.3 cm.), W: 5 ½ in. (14 cm.), D: 5 in. (12.7 cm.)
Location The Newark Museum, Newark, NJ
Credit Courtesy of the Newark Museum, Collection of Bernard and Patricia Wagner, Promised Gift/Photo by Sven Lindahl

expert perspective

Christa ClarkeSenior Curator of Arts of Africa and the Americas, Newark Museum

Male and Female Twin Figures (flanitokelew)

» Bamana artist, Kala, Mali

expert perspective

Christa Clarke Christa Clarke Senior Curator of Arts of Africa and the Americas, Newark Museum

A lot of representations of the human form in African art tend to be more abstract. They don’t have the same goals of realistic representation that has guided a lot of Western art. It’s really about concepts. But within that generalization there are many different approaches to the human body. So you have from Central Africa, in Gabon among Mitsogho, you have a very abstract depiction of the human body. In other cultures, in the Congo culture, you have a more naturalistic, perhaps, depiction of the human form. And sometimes the depiction of the human body and the choices the artists make about naturalism and stylization can be a result of the context in which the figure is used.

The Bamana in Mali, for example, have these wonderful, large scale sculptures that have a more naturalistic quality to them. I’m thinking of this female figure where this woman has these sloping shoulders, the rounded breasts, and she is depicted as an icon of nurturance, of maternal benevolence, whereas other Bamana sculptures have a more angular depiction of the human body, and in this case the female form is depicted as a more youthful ideal, almost as an erotic depiction. So there is really quite a range in terms of the way the artists approach their subjects.” 

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