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African Art

Female Dancing Figure (Ngwindem)

late 19th–early 20th century

Wood and encrustation

31 1/8 × 10 1/16 × 8 7/8 in. (79 × 25.5 × 22.5 cm)
Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection
Bangwa female figures commemorate princesses or favorite wives of a king. This figure belongs to a special type called ngwindem, which means “woman of God” and refers to gifted mothers of twins as diviners. Ngwindem figures are associated with a cult of the earth, whose priests and priestesses are parents of twins. The statue, which seems to capture the woman in motion, could portray a dance of the mother of twins, which they perform in honor of a newly crowned chief. While dancing they wave branches of a bush to bless the chief.
Guinea Coast, Cameroon
On view
19th–20th century

Philippe Guimiot, Brussels, after 1965–April 20, 1977; Charles B. Benenson Collection, Greenwich, Conn, 1977–2004; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.


Robert Brain and Adam Pollock, Bangwa Funerary Sculpture (London: Gerald Duckworth & Co., Ltd., 1971), 29, 124–27, pls. 14, 59.

“Guimiot advertisement,” Arts d’Afrique Noire 15 (Autumn 1975): back cover ill.

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: Museum for African Art, 1990), 160-161, fig. 90.

Susan Vogel, Mary (Polly) Nooter Roberts, and Chris Muller, Exhibition-ism: Museums and African Art, exh. cat. (New York: Museum for African Art, 1994–95), 118–119, fig. 13–15.

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

“Acquisitions, July 1, 2006–June 30, 2007,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2007): 4, ill.

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), 162, 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.