Mumuye Figure

hcc-1207-4_mumuye_f_  hcc-1207-4_mumuye_v_  hcc-1207-4_mumuye_b_  hcc-1207-4_mumuye_34p_

HCC 1207-4

Mumuye Figure, Nigeria/Cameroon

H: 96 cm (37,8″), W 15 cm (5,9″)

Provenance: Private collection.  Collected more than 30 years ago.

The Mumuye in Nigeria are probably amalgam of seven originally separate peoples who retreated under pressure to the rocky hills south of the Benue River.

The Mumuye figures tend to be elongated ranging in size from 20 to 160 cm. The legs are usually angular, and ribbon-like arms wrap around the torso with elbows clearly marked. The head may display a coiffure in the form of a crest. Scarification on face and body is delineated and the nasal septum is perforated for the insertion of a short section of a stalk of Guinea corn. Both scarification and nasal septum ornamentation reflect local custom.

A number of such sculptures have large ears with pierced and distended earlobes for the insertion of plugs, a practice visible in some Jukun figures from neighbouring areas. The Mumuye distinguish the gender of the figures on the basis of the shape of the ears; only Mumuye women distend their earlobes. In sculptures where secondary sex characteristics are absent or difficult to identify this may be the only clue to determining the gender of a figure.

The Mumuye occasionally used their figures for divination and healing, as did the north-western neighbours, the Montol and Goemai. Other figures, distinguishable in form and style, reinforced the status of important elders, served as house guardians and/or were used to greet rainmakers’ clients.

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