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Object Name: Figure
Cultural Group: Mumuye peoples
Date: Early to mid-20th century
Materials Used: Wood, pigment
Credit line and Accession Number: Fowler Museum at UCLA; Anonymous Gift
Ritual sculptures associated with the Mumuye peoples served in activities intended to gain protection from drought and epidemic diseases as well as to promote successful harvests. They were known to aid the Mumuye “Master of Rain,” whose power extended to neighboring groups. Sometimes the figures were also used as oracles or to reinforce the status of important elders.
A flood of Mumuye sculptures reached the art market in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and since then they have been much celebrated for their abstraction, inventiveness, and striking variety. Part of their attraction is that they are highly recognizable and at the same time very different one from the other. Female figures are often indicated by large perforated earlobes and male figures by their helmets with high crests and/or flaps. Based on their numbers in collections, Mumuye artists must have been numerous and prolific.
Gallery Wall Text, Central Nigeria Unmasked: Arts of the Benue River Valley, 2011