Dan Seated Maternity Figure withChildren Liberia Côte d'Ivoire
The wood of this piece is very dense and heavy. Light-colored carved details that stand out against the darker wood of the figures.
This figure comes from the Dan people of north east Liberia or Ivory-Coast. It depicts a sitting female with one child on her lap and one on her back.
The Dan numbering about 350,000, live as farmers in small villages and towns in Northwest Liberia and eastern Ivory-Coast. Sculpted female figures among the Dan or Yacuba are commissioned by wealthy or socially prominent men to represent their favored wife. Sometimes sculpted with a baby on their back the figures exemplify the ideas of fertility and continuity of the family. These figures are known as ‚Äòlu me' or wooden person and can be over 60 centimeters in height. They do not portray ancestors but are stylized portraits of real individuals closely representing the hairstyle, body markings, and physiognomy of the wife. These sculptures are superb examples of Dan sculpture and were often the work of well-known artists who worked in secret away from women and children as they carved the lu me figures. In some instances ‚Äòlu me' sculptures are made public to the village during a ceremony in which the man who commissioned the carving is recognized and gaining social prestige. These figures may also be kept in small houses and only publicly shown on special occasions.
Oral traditions describe the Dan society of the 19th century as lacking any central governing power. Social cohesion was fostered by a shared language and a preference for intermarriage. Generally, each village had a headman who had earned his position of advantage in the community through hard work in the fields and through luck as a hunter. They usually surrounded themselves with young warriors for protection from invading neighbors and exchanged gifts with other chiefs in order to heighten their own prestige. Out of this custom was born the basic tradition of tin among the Dan, which was based on displaying one's success in order to build a good reputation and name.