Barakat Gallery
Login | Register | User Services | Search | Newsletter Sign-up
Barakat Gallery
HOME : African & Tribal Art : Bura : Bura Stone Figure
Click to view original image.
Bura Stone Figure - DC.317 (LSO)
Origin: Burkina Faso/Niger
Circa: 3 rd Century AD to 11 th Century AD
Dimensions: 20" (50.8cm) high
Collection: African Art

Location: United States
Currency Converter
Place On Hold
Ask a Question
Email to a Friend
Previous Item
Next Item
Photo Gallery
Click photo to change image.
Print image
Click photo to change image.
Print image
Click photo to change image.
Print image
This outstanding anthropomorphic stone sculpture is excessively rare, and was made by one of the most inscrutable groups in pre- colonial Africa: the Bura. The majority of elongated stone figures are believed to be staffs or something similar, and the bodies are always minimised, detailing being thoroughly absent. The current piece – which bears something of a resemblance to ancient Cycladic sculptures – is the first of its type we have seen. It is columnar in overall look, with a narrowing at the neck where it joins the hexagonal head. The limbs are nugatory, the hands being carved prominently onto the front of the body just below the navel. The legs are pressed together with little detailing and are narrow from front to back, resulting in a spike shape that could have been used to fix the piece into the ground. In lateral view the chest and the crest of the nose (see below) are the most protuberant parts of the sculpture. The face is fairly typical, with coffee-bean eyes and mouth and a nose that begins at the apex of the head and divides the face neatly in two. The back of the figure is plain, which implies that the piece was designed to be seen from the front, perhaps as a devotional object or idol. The whole surface has a patina indicative of wear and long usage.

The Bura are a true paradox: almost nothing is known of this shadowy Nigerian/Malian group. They appear to have originated in the first half of the first millennium AD, although the only archaeologically-excavated site (Nyamey) dates between the 14th and 16th centuries. They are contemporary with – and probably related to – the Djenne Kingdom, the Koma, the Teneku and a satellite culture known as the Inland Niger Delta. Insofar as can be ascertained, the Bura share certain characteristics with these groups; for our purposes, these include extensive ceramic and stone sculptural traditions. The Bura appear to have been sedentary agriculturists who buried their dead in tall, conical urns, often surmounted by small figures. Their utilitarian vessels are usually plain, while other “containers” – the function of which is not understood – are often decorated with incised and stamped patterns. Their best-known art form is radically reductivist anthropomorphic stone statues, with heads rendered as squares, triangles and ovals, with the body suggested by a columnar, monolithic shape beneath. Phallic objects are also known; some phallomorphic objects may have been staffs, perhaps regalia pertaining to leaders of Bura groups. Ceramic heads are usually more complex than their stone counterparts, with incised decoration and variable treatment of facial proportions and features. There are a few very rare equestrian figures: these bear some resemblance to Djenne pieces. Almost no intact human or equestrian figures are known.

The role of these figures is almost totally obscure. Equestrian figures probably represent high status individuals, and the very few full- body representations of humans may be portraits or ancestor figures. Intuitively – as with so many other groups both inside and beyond Africa – figures with exaggerated sexual characteristics would tend to be associated with fertility and fecundity, as would any artefact modelled in the shape of pudenda (although the sceptre-like qualities of some such pieces should be noted – see above). The distribution of decoration on some ceramic pieces (notably phalluses) may suggest that they were designed to be viewed from one angle only – perhaps as adorational pieces. Many pieces are believed to have been found in burials, perhaps implying an importance that would have been linked to social standing and status.

This is an outstanding Bura sculpture, and a striking and attractive piece of ancient art from one of Africa’s lost civilisations.

- (DC.317 (LSO))


Home About Us Help Contact Us Services Publications Search
Terms and Conditions Privacy Policy Security

Copyright (c) 2000-2021 by Barakat, Inc. All Rights Reserved - TEL 310.859.8408 - FAX 310.276.1346

coldfusion hosting