© Tim Hamill
LOBI MATERNITY FIGURE NO. 1, 56.5", SOLD
These enigmatic, brooding figures protect the Lobi people of Burkina
Faso. Ranging in size from 7 - 47" high, most are frontal, symmetrical
and timeless sentinels expressing the traditional beliefs of the Lobi. Several
depart from the norm with animated gestures, asymmetry or a great degree
of symbolic abstraction.
The figures were placed on family altars in the thilda, a small sacristy or room in each dwelling. Each figure was not a representation but an actual spirit, or tibil thil. It protected the family and home from illness and other misfortunes. The spirit could also be used for divination; it could demand offerings and additions of other figures. Rarely, a head is used similarly to the figures. The accumulation of statues on a family altar gave social status and were passed on from father to son.
Exhibiting a wide diversity in size, symbolism, intimacy and style., African maternity figures depict the ideals of beauty, fertility, character and action and many signify much more, whether the primordial mother or a legendary founding ancestor. Commonly used as shrine figures, they were often objects of petitions or prayers for fertility and successful births. The prevelance of the maternity theme testifies to the importance of women and children to the continuity of each people.
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