The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Mbari: Art as Process in Igboland

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

Side of mbari to Nguma at Egbelu Obube Ulakwo by the artist, Nnaji. Igbo artist, Nigeria. Photo by Herbert M. Cole.

The geometric wall, column, and buttress patterns here and elsewhere combine straight lines, derived from the iron rods on which deities' feet are placed (see pages three and four of this essay), and sometimes imbedded in walls, with circles based on plates. These dark straight and light circular motifs are interpreted as male and female symbols, respectively, in accordance with analogous gender symbolism elsewhere in Igbo arts.