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African Art

Female Figure

early 20th century

Wood, pigment, and metal

28 9/16 × 8 1/4 × 8 3/8 in. (72.5 × 21 × 21.3 cm)
Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection
This puppet was used by the Ekon–an Ibibio association of warriors–in humorous performances to entertain and exert social control. The young women is fresh from her stay in the “fattening room.” This practice involved seclusion of young women in preparation for marriage, during which time she was well fed to conform to standards of corporeal beauty and instructed on how to fulfill moral expectations for adult women. The practice fell from popularity over the last decades. After the pre-marriage seclusion period, a young women would have been elaborately coiffed and adorned with rich, black line body painting by a female artist before she was presented to the community. The figure represents this practice and is adorned with the same body decoration.
Geography Guinea Coast, Nigeria
Ibibio, Ekon association
20th century

Rheims, Paris, "Arts Primitifs. Extreme-Orient, Haute-Epoque", 23 April 1958. Lot 273, Plate IX.
Loudmer, Paris, "Arts Primitifs", 25/26 June 1992. Lot 30. [Yale-GvR files]
Charles B. Benenson Collection, donated to Yale University Art Gallery in 2004


Sarah Adams, Call and Response: Journeys of African Art, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2000), 11, fig. 9.

“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), 310, 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.