Female Figure

Bamana Peoples, Mali

Wood

Gift of Senator Terry E. Lister and Mrs. Lister and Family

14 1/4 x 4 1/4 x 3 1/4 inches

Called nyeleni or little Nylele (“pretty little one” or “little ornament”)–a name frequently given to a first-born daughter these figures depict the ideal qualities of young marriageable women. A slender torso, swelling
abdomen, firm breasts allude to childbearing capacity, and faintly incised patterns on the torso represent scarification marks worn by adolescent Bamana girls. The figures are held during dances by young men who have
completed the six-year initiation cycle. The performances serve to celebrate the men’s new status and to advertise their desires to meet young brides.

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