Sculpture of the Bamana Jo Society

by Kate Ezra
Yale University Art Gallery (formerly Columbia College of Art)

Mali; Bamana peoples

Seated mother and child

15th-20th century

Wood

H. 123.5 cm (48 5/8")

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, U.S.A., The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979 (1979.206.121)

Another type of figure sculpture associated with jo addresses a much broader set of ideas.  These sculptures are displayed at the annual celebration of the jo society, when sacrifices renew its power, and at celebrations of Gwan, an institution affiliated with jo that is concerned with problems of fertility and childbearing.  At these celebrations, sculptures are removed from the jo society house and washed and oiled until they glisten.  The figures are adorned with cloth and beads, and then set up in a group.  While the groups of sculptures vary in size from village to village, they always contain a seated mother and child and a seated male figure.