African Art
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery

Female Figure

early 20th century

Wood, seed, and string

92 x 25.4 x 25.4 cm (36 1/4 x 10 x 10 in.)
Leonard C. Hanna, Jr., Class of 1913, Fund
2011.51.1
This Vai female figure is one of the largest in existence. Such figures depict a newly initiated woman at her “coming out” ceremony, in which she would be presented to her people. The young woman at this event would have been nude (in the nineteenth century and earlier), or provided with a small apron (by the mid-twentieth century), but lavishly decorated with strands of beads and other adornments, including European shoes. Her body would be rubbed with oil to make it brilliantly black, and the sculpture has received the same treatment. Scarification marks on the lower back of such young women are a sign of refinement.
Geography: 
Country Liberia
Culture: 
Vai
Classification: 
Sculpture
Status: 
On view
Bibliography: 

“Acquisitions,” http://artgallery.yale.edu/pdf/acquisitions_2011.pdf (accessed March 1, 2012).

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.

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