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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Yoruba Sculptures : Yoruba Sculpture of a Man with a Monkey on his Head
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Yoruba Sculpture of a Man with a Monkey on his Head - PF.3071
Origin: Southwestern Nigeria
Circa: 19 th Century AD to 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 23.5" (59.7cm) high x 5.5" (14.0cm) wide
Collection: African
Medium: Bone

Location: United States
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This marvelous sculpture is carved from an elephant femur, carefully following the natural shape of the bone. It comes from the Yoruba tribe of Western Nigeria which associates elephants with nature and has a complex concept of art. Yoruba concept of art entails skillful manipulation of media, the decoration, design, or embellishment of form, innovation, improvisation, completeness, appropriateness, insight, design consciousness, aliveness, and durability among others. The sculpture carved of elephant femur embodies these ideas that make Yoruba art great. It depicts a man sitting on a throne-like seat around which snakes are wrapped in an X-shape. The bottom of the seat, the larger side of the bone, reveals three faces carved to fit the shape of the bone's curves. The man's face shows geometric scarfication and he wears a beaded necklace. And a monkey with a cheerful face stands on top of the distinguished man. The monkey symbolizes wisdom and knowledge, the seated man is perhaps a wiseman or a distinguished elder of the tribe. People of Yoruba have the greatest respect for their elders and they often created sculptures of their elders. It is amazing how an artist employed all of the crucial concepts of Yoruba art: successful use of the bone, creative decoration of the form, improvising the sculpture to fit the bone shape, insight of wisdom of the elder, aliveness of the cheerful monkey, and durability of the elephant's bone. With these ideas achieved, the visual and symbolic beauty of the sculpture becomes complete in one work of art. When we look at this sculpture, we are experiencing the whole of Yoruba culture and art. - (PF.3071)


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