Married Women

In traditional African communities, a woman's most important role is to be a mother. The ability to give birth, nurture and protect children is celebrated in this wooden sculpture of an Akan mother and child. In America we are also familiar with images of the mother and child. What examples can you think of?

In this Akan statue it is the woman who is the focus of the work of art. Her firm body and the rolls of fat on the neck represent fertility, while the decorative scarification on the cheeks and hairstyle celebrate her physical beauty and indicate her ethnic identity. Seated on a stool, she looks ahead with confidence and composure, showing that she has a good character -- ideal qualities for every married Akan woman. The type of stool upon which she sits indicates that she is a woman of high status.

The sculpture of the mother and child is covered in a layer of kaolin, which is a white clay also put on children to protect them from diseases.

The pale color represents the spirit world, for this sculpture was kept in a shrine and given offerings so that the mother or family who owned it would stay well and prosper.

© Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University,
Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester and Dallas Museum of Art
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