Sculpture of the Bamana Jo Society

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

Mali; Bamana peoples

Male figure holding animal horn

15th-20th century


H. 108.9 cm (42 7/8")

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, U.S.A., The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979.  1979.206.132

The figures displayed in the annual celebrations of the jo society are different in appearance from the nyeleni figures carried by the new jo initiates in their performances.  They are much larger (ranging from three to five feet, rather than one to two feet high).  They depict men as well as women, and the figures are shown in a variety of postures and gestures.  Their forms are more rounded and full, and their body parts connect in a more fluid, naturalistic way.  The figure shown here is one of the "companion" figures, displayed next to the central pair of seated male and female figures.  He is holding an animal horn filled with power-producing substances, and is wearing a type of hat associated with Bamana people known for their wisdom and occult powers, e.g. hunters, diviners, and leaders of initiation associations.  People with such extraordinary powers are one of the principal themes of the jo society figures.