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African Art
Artist, possibly by: John Goba

Headdress in the Shape of the Head of an Indian Woman Surmounted by a Male Figure with Shackles

mid-to late 20th century

Wood with metal and enamel paint

33 3/4 × 10 1/2 × 16 in. (85.725 × 26.67 × 40.64 cm)
Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection
2006.51.567
In the late nineteenth century, Sierra Leone experienced a large influx of laborers from western India for the construction of its railroad, undercutting wages for local laborers and, in a way, “shackling” them. This created ongoing racial tensions in the country, which is addressed in the pairing of an African man with a West Indian woman in this image. The shackles may also imply that the man is chained by his love for the woman, whose light skin was considered to be very attractive. The phallic shape of the woman’s hairstyle further supports such an interpretation and may refer to Mami Wata, a water spirit.
Geography: 
Sierra Leone
Status: 
On view
Culture: 
Krio, Ode-Lay association
Period: 
20th century
Classification: 
Masks
Provenance: 

Possibly Jeremiah Cole, Los Angeles and Atlanta. Charles B. Benenson Collection, donated to Yale University Art Gallery in 2004

Bibliography: 

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

Sarah Adams, Call and Response: Journeys of African Art, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2000), 55, 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), 76, 312, fig. 20.

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.