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Kissi Soapstone Nomoli Sculpture of a Kneeling Figure - PF.6155
Origin: Guinea/Sierra Leone
Circa: 16 th Century AD to 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 7.5" (19.1cm) high
Collection: African
Style: Kissi
Medium: Soapstone

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The Kissi people revere stone anthropomorphic carvings found in fields and rivers in an area located around the Sewa and Mano Rivers. They are called Nomoli. These carvings are extremely old and it was not until 1959 that Western scholars associated them with the so-called Afro-Portuguese ivory objects carved by artists of the Sapi kingdom. Although the Sapi kingdom collapsed in the 16th century, their art survived buried beneath the ground. Occasionally, these ancient works were accidentally unearthed, usually through flooding or farming. Kissi artists would often rework the Sapi sculptures, resulting in a multitude of variations of types and styles. This charming sculpture depicts a kneeling figure with a large, swollen stomach. While the figure appears to be a pregnant woman, there is no indication of breasts or clearly defined genitalia. Thus, this sculpture may represent spiritual fertility. However, it may represent a man suffering from the disease known as ascites, of which abdominal distention is a symptom. In this case, the sculpture would act as a medicinal tool. Libations would be paid to the work in order to cure an individual suffering from ascites. The facial features, including the large lips, flaring nose, and bulging eyes, are all characteristic of Pombo figures. According to Kissi belief, such sculptures were thought to act as intermediaries between the living and their deceased ancestors. They would be worshiped on small altars or in deep bowls. This sculpture, a literal relic of the past, continues to communicate with the lost world left behind. Magically unearthed, it is a gift from the past to the present, suggesting the bounty yet to come. This fertility sculpture was surely as revered by the Kissi villagers who discovered it as by the Sapi artists who crafted it. - (PF.6155)

 

 

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