By Carla Herling
Drake University (formerly University of Iowa)

Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire; Senufo peoples

Mother and child figure


H. 49.53 cm ( 19 ½ ")

University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection, X1986.578

A woman who has experienced difficulty conceiving may consult a diviner who may use an iconic figure like this one to determine the source of her affliction.  Like the figure on the Mossi mask, this Senufo mother figure displays all of the marks of status and honor of a woman who has achieved her role as ideal mother and wife, including the marks on her abdomen that show she has borne her first child, her elaborate hairstyle, and her breasts stretched from nursing.  She sits stiff and formal, emotionless, as an icon of the idea of motherhood rather than as a portrait of a particular mother and child.