Human

By Carla Herling
Drake University (formerly University of Iowa)

Nigeria (Oyo, Erin/Ilobu/Oshogbo area); Yoruba peoples 

Figure

Wood, beads

H. 53.3 cm (21”)

The University of Iowa Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection, X1986.405

A second Yoruba female shrine figure holds a child on her lap as it nurses.  The impersonality of the relationship between the mother and child as we see them represented here is one of the most common characteristics of African sculpture.  The purpose is not to portray a particular, identifiable, mother and her infant, but to represent the idea and value of fertility and motherhood.  As a result, there is no emotional contact between the two figures.  The baby nurses, while the mother's gaze is directed at us, and not at her baby.