size: 16.5" ( 42 cm)
provenance: private USA estate collection
Of a large, irregular, shaped head with Makonde trade mark facial scarifications, this female Makonde figure is believed to represent the common female ancestor, the life-force of the early Makonde households of matrilineal kinship but headed by men. The precolonial Makonde grew from such households, known as likola, to blossom into the present day Makonde peoples now located in Tanzania and Mozambique. The Makonde are almost the only ethnicity in East Africa to create fairly naturalistic sculptures – primarily maternity figures, which are intended to ensure fertility. The thick, upper lip of the female figurine depicts the elongation by a labret (lip plug). Typical Makonde standing figures often have the arms separated from the body (akimbo).