Carved figure of breastfeeding woman

1890-1920 in Africa
Yoruba people

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Carved ebony filigree of seated woman suckling an infant, woman's face ornamented with tribal civilization, wearing an
Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Carved ebony figure of seated woman suckling an infant, woman's face ornamented with tribal scarification, wearing an amuletic necklace, possibly represents Odudua, Earth Goddess in the Yoruba pantheon, probably Yoruba people, West African, 1890-1920

This carved statue of a breastfeeding woman reputedly comes from the Yoruba people of West Africa. It is made of a solid block of ebony. The woman is said to represent Odudua. She is an Earth Goddess and ancestral mother figure within Yoruba mythology. In either context the statue acts as a fertility symbol. These represent growth and healing in many African societies. They help induce pregnancy and ensure a safe delivery. The statue wears an amulet necklace. It bears the raised marks of scarification on her face. These raised scars are considered marks of great beauty within many African cultures.

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Science Museum: Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries

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Ethnography and Folk Medicine
Object Number:
  • visual and verbal communication
  • sculpture

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