African Art
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Kneeling Female Figure with a Child and a Medicine Pot

late 19th century

Wood, glass, black paint, and white kaolin

55.5 x 25.5 x 25.5 cm (21 7/8 x 10 1/16 x 10 1/16 in.)
Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection
2006.51.61
The sweeping coiffure crest worn by this figure of an ideal mother indicates that she is sacred and has been trained to receive the spiritual power of healing; with her palm upward she would receive a spiritual rain from God. Her right hand dispenses medicine from the pot below. She heals a sick child whom she holds with her left hand, while the child crosses arms over chest, a gesture known as tuluwa ku luumbu (“wrapped up in the protective enclosure of the king”). The pose of the mother figure, leaning forward, signifies “I follow.” It suggests the strength of a palm tree bending in the wind, indicating a receptivity to spiritual guidance.
Geography: 
Made in Central Africa, Congo (Kinshasa)
Made in Central Africa, Congo (Brazzaville)
Made in Central Africa, Cabinda
Made in Central Africa, Angola
Culture: 
Kongo
Classification: 
Sculpture
Status: 
On view
Bibliography: 

Susan Vogel and Jerry L. Thompson, Closeup: Lessons in the Art of Seeing African Sculpture from an American Collection and the Horstmann Collection, exh. cat. (New York: The Center for African Art, 1990), 168-169, fig. 100.

Sarah Adams, Call and Response: Journeys of African Art, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2000), 2, fig. 3.

Robert Farris Thompson, B.A. 1955, M.A. 1961, Ph.D. 1965, “Icons for the Brave and Generous: Kongo Art at Yale,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2005): 80–81, 86, fig. 9.

“Acquisitions, July 1, 2005–June 30, 2006,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2006): 222.

Holland Cotter, “At Yale, Renovation Puts African Art in Spotlight,” New York Times (January 10, 2007), E1, ill.

Frederick John Lamp, “Hot Space, Cool Space: The Reinstallation of the African Art Collection in the Louis Kahn Building at Yale University,” African Arts 40 (Summer 2007): 44–45, fig. 15.

Frederick John Lamp, Accumulating Histories: African Art from the Charles B. Benenson Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2012), 79, 108, fig. 23.

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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