Headdress in the Shape of the Head of an Indian Woman Surmounted by a Male Figure with Shackles Artist, possibly by: John Goba (Sierra Leonean, born 1944)

mid-to late 20th century

African Art

On view, 1st floor, African Art

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.

Medium

Wood with metal and enamel paint

Dimensions

33 3/4 × 10 1/2 × 16 in. (85.725 × 26.67 × 40.64 cm)

Credit Line

Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection

Accession Number

2006.51.567

Geography
Period

20th century

Classification
Disclaimer

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 records is ongoing.

Provenance

Provenance

Possibly Jeremiah Cole, Los Angeles and Atlanta. Charles B. Benenson Collection, donated to Yale University Art Gallery in 2004
Bibliography
  • 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
  • "Acquisitions, July 1, 2005–June 30, 2006," Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2006), 222
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

ceremonial objects, headdress, headgear, masks (costume)

Subject

men women

Technical metadata and APIs

IIIF

Open in Mirador

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