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African Art
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
PrevNext2 of 2
Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery

Female Figure (Jo Nyeleni)

late 19th–early 20th century

Wood, aluminum, and encrustation

20 1/4 × 5 1/8 in. (51.5 × 13 cm)
Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection
This statue represents a beautiful young woman of the Jo, an association that offers social guidance and teaches models of behavior, into which both women and men were initiated. Initiations took place every seven years. Figures like this one were carried around by male initiates while they traveled for several months to neighboring villages, advertising their new adult status and their desire for marriage. The figures embody the physical attributes considered to be attractive to young Bamana women. Anointed with oil, the sculptures represent women in their ideal state, at their highest degree of physical attractiveness.
Sahel, Mali
19th–20th century

Mathias Komor, New York, prior to 1981; Charles B. Benenson Collection, Greenwich, Conn, by 1981–2004; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.


Roslyn Adele Walker, African Women / African Art, exh. cat. (New York, NY: African-American Institute, 1976), 10, no. 1, fig. 2.

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

Frederick John Lamp, Amanda Maples, and Laura M. Smalligan, Accumulating Histories: African Art from the Charles B. Benenson Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2012), 150, ill.

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.