Mali Tribal Carved Sculpture - African Wooden Fetish
The Bambara (also known as Bamana) are an ethnic group of people native to West Africa, predominantly in southern Mali. Bambara carved female figures like this one are called nyeleni, a name which can be interpreted to mean "little pretty one." This small statue has the long thin nose, rectangular ears, and high-swept hair arrangement that represent the Bambara ideal of feminine beauty. Her arms are rigidly at her sides, with hands flat, and she is anatomically correct. Typically called a fetish, the figure is used in initiations where boys become adult men.
This carving is obviously hand made from a dark brown wood with a smooth surface on the figure and a rougher one on the small circular base. Measuring about 7 inches tall, its about 1 1/4 inches across the shoulders and weighs less than 3 ounces. It stands upright, but is easily tipped if even slightly bumped so we recommend using Museum Gel on the bottom to secure it.
The statue was made in the mid-to-late 20th century and is in excellent condition. Its cubist geometric lines look great in a modern setting and it mixes well with African and other ethnic objects.