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Kneeling Female Figure (Arugba)

Arts of Africa

The Yoruba consider the head to be the seat of an individual’s àse (power or life force) and their ìwà (personal character). The considerable detail given to the head of this arugba (meaning “one who carries the calabash”) and the blue hair crest, probably decorated with the pigment known as laundry blue, suggest a cool, controlled vitality.

This figure likely served as a receptacle for small gifts on a shrine altar, possibly dedicated to Shango, the god of thunder and lightning. Based on characteristic carving details and similarities of form, this figure was probably carved by Maku, the master carver of the town of Erin, or by his son Toibo.
MEDIUM Wood, pigment
DATES early 20th century
DIMENSIONS 22 x 7 x 8 in. (55.9 x 17.8 x 20.3 cm)  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
CREDIT LINE Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Robert A. Mandelbaum
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Kneeling woman figure, holding kola nut bowl, in light colored wood, with coiffure in blue pigment. Necklace with triangular shaped pendant suspended on front and back. Five bracelets on each arm, and a hip girdle. Elongated figure, with hips resting on feet, entire figure on oval base with cross hatch pattern. Sleek and well balanced. Five tiered semi-circles make up coiffure. Face has scarification patterns, eyes also emphasized with geometric patterning. CONDITION: Very good. Crack at base, check up the back and on right side of figure. Lid of calabash bowl (removable) was repaired.
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Possibly Maku, master carver of Erin (died 1915). Kneeling Female Figure (Arugba), early 20th century. Wood, pigment, 22 x 7 x 8 in. (55.9 x 17.8 x 20.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Robert A. Mandelbaum, 82.103a-b. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 82.103a-b_PS2.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 82.103a-b_PS2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2006
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