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HOME : African & Tribal Art : African Sculptures : Zulu Ivory Initiation Staff
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Zulu Ivory Initiation Staff - PF.3831
Origin: South Africa
Circa: 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 8.75" (22.2cm) high x 1.75" (4.4cm) wide
Collection: African Art
Medium: Ivory

Location: United States
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African tribal culture was based on community and survival. Due to this, fertility and sexuality played a very large part in the philosophy of a tribe. This beautifully carved piece of ivory had an important role in this ideology. Retaining the symmetrical shape of the horn, the ivory has been carved with fine lines varying in direction. At the top, is the head of a fish, which represents fertility, and out of its mouth comes a bulb- shaped object. Its actual ritual function was to prepare the girl to become a part of an important group, solely for women.This type of initiation would also have meant new roles and duties for the girl as a rite of passage. With this in mind, we realize the importance that this piece had, and in turn, learn to respect art and its various functions, whether foreign or familiar to us. - (PF.3831)


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