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Standing Female Figure (Tulume)

Arts of Africa


These five artworks from throughout Africa display the range of approaches artists have taken to figural representation. They prove that the Western tradition of naturalism—depicting the body precisely as observed in life—is not even remotely the only possibility open to an artist.

The Mossi mask celebrates the female form. While it is not an exact replica of the body, the proportions are relatively balanced.

The Yoruba tapper, used with a board to draw images during divinations, was carved with more exaggerated proportions, owing to both the shape of the ivory from which it was carved and the functional requirements of the object.

The Fang figure has primarily been reduced to a series of cylinders and circles. The legs and hips are conceived as the intersection of two perpendicular cylinders, echoing the cylindrical reliquary box on which the figure sat.

The small Nsapo-Nsapo work and the Salampasu figure take the abstraction of the human form even further by greatly exaggerating the proportions. The Nsapo-Nsapo figure’s thin, extended arms and the Salampasu sculpture’s outthrust chest and flexed shoulders suggest different emotional states for these two protective figures—a tense anxiety, perhaps, in one and a tense readiness in the other.
CULTURE Salampasu
MEDIUM Wood, pigment
DATES late 19th century
DIMENSIONS 14 3/16 x 4 5/16 x 3 9/16 in. (36 x 11 x 9 cm)  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
CREDIT LINE By exchange and Designated Purchase Fund
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Standing wooden female figure with downward pointing breasts, a pointed navel, and bent arms hanging free from the sides of the torso. Hips and legs are exaggerated in form. Its headdress is conical in shape with circular indentations. A strip of white paint covers the eyes. A heavily encrusted patina covers the surface of the figure. CONDITION: A thin check runs from the top of the headdress through the forehead to the right eye. Another runs from the left side of the abdomen to the top of the left leg. There is a hole in the stomach near the right breast. There are two checks on the right side of the face and one through the back near the right shoulder. Both feet have been broken off at the instep. A wooden dowel from the base remains in the broken portion of the right foot. Two splinters of wood remain from the break. Small amounts of patination were removed by the rough tissue paper packing. A heavily encrusted patina covers the surface of the figure.Photographs have been taken of the above break and packing after the box was opened. Piece repaired by Conservation Dept. 5/74.
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Salampasu. Standing Female Figure (Tulume), late 19th century. Wood, pigment, 14 3/16 x 4 5/16 x 3 9/16 in. (36 x 11 x 9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, By exchange and Designated Purchase Fund, 74.32. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 74.32.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 74.32.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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