Yoruba Terracotta Altarpiece - PF.4940 Origin: Southwestern Nigeria Circa: 19
Century AD Dimensions:12.25" (31.1cm) high x 5.5" (14.0cm) wide Collection: African Medium: Terracotta
Images of mothers express a crucial theme in the cultural development of Yoruba art. A figure such as this one is more than a representational image; it is an archetype of female virtue and of the nurturing ability women possess. This ability is almost mystical in nature which only art can fully express. The woman is in a seated position with her baby comfortably resting on a cushion while suckling. She is naked except for a waistband of two heavy chords, and one of equal thickness around her neck. The "crown" of spikes on her head is unusual and may relate to a devotee of a particular deity, or one worn by someone of high rank. What is most endearing is the half-closed eyes of the mother who seems in a blissful state of having her baby so tenderly nursing at her breast. Such an image is not only essential to Yoruba culture, but is also universal and timeless.