By William Dewey
Pennsylvania State University (formerly University of Iowa)

MaliDjenné style

Kneeling woman

Fired clay

H. 23 cm (9")

University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection, X1986.448


The pose of this kneeling woman with her hands on her knees is commonly seen in the terracottas. Roy suggested that the “figure kneels in a pose of humility and respect, the same pose [he saw] women assume when they serve a meal or a bowl of millet beer to their male relatives” (1992: 18). De Grunne was told that the “terracottas represent the gods of the ancient inhabitants of the abandoned sites of the Inland Niger Delta. Each god was portrayed in a specific posture in which he or she should be venerated. Every pose was a form of bodily prayer” (De Grunne 1988: 53). McIntosh (1989), however, cautions against using this type of ethnographic analogy, because the time gap between their creation and the present is hundreds of years. He urges interpretation based on the example of the contexts in which the terracottas were found in the Djenné excavations.