The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Mbari: Art as Process in Igboland

by Herbert M. Cole
Professor Emeritus, University of California, Santa Barbara

Agwa mbari. Igbo artist, Nigeria. Photo by Herbert M. Cole.

This maternity clinic with three uniformed nurses/midwives and a woman in the act of giving birth, was included in this mbari in hope that an actual clinic would soon be built in the community, which in fact happened a few years later. Above the table on the wall between the standing nurses is the telephone unit, partly made of discarded flashlight batteries. 

The figures here, like most, are about half life-size. Some have quite conventionalized poses, while others— usually those away from the formal front of the mbari, as in this image —have lifelike and realistic positions and convincing details.
Both the main house and the cloister have small figures, architectural setbacks, and other devices that increase the illusionary size and scale of the mbari.