Kissi Soapstone Nomoli Sculpture of a Seated Figure - DZ.002
Origin: Sierra Leone
Circa: 12 th Century AD to 18 th Century AD
Collection: African Art
Style: Nomoli
Medium: Stone
Condition: Extra Fine


In West Africa there are many various cultures. Myths, fairy tales and legends are very important in people’s lives and in their religions.Those stories tell about an origin of a people and are giving different answers to the question:“Where do we come from?”Those myths were transferred verbal.There are only a few notes from European missioners, but they contain European ideas of moral. One of those legends has its origin in Sierra Leone,Western Africa. It is telling of mysterious stones and sculptures.While digging for diamonds native workmen found stone sculptures.The objects were about 40cm tall; their origin is unknown. According to the geological stratums in which they were found, they must be 2.500 to 17.000 years old. Where do those mysterious stone figures come from? Are they relics of a foreign and sunken culture? Ethnologists are not able to define the culture those founds belong to, although the figures are very old and the scientists know that their style does not match the style of works from Mande, the aborigines. The myths and legends describe how the things went on but they also try to explain why they have changed. Often they point out secrets and spiritual answers to questions like: How did the world come about? Where do men and women come from? Where are the sparkling diamonds from? One African myth claims to know the answers to the questions: It says that in ancient times a people of angels lived in heaven.As a cause of bad behaviour Allah banned them from the divine empire.To punish the angels he transformed them into men and sends them to Earth.The found statues of Nomoli are said to be a reminder of those once divine creatures. Scientists, especially ethnologists, developed numerous theories about those figures.They do not have the same opinion because the origin and the purpose of the sculptures are unexplained. Some native tribes like the Mande and Kissi in Guinea found such statues of Nomolis on their fields. So a “vegetation cult” developed that is seen in connection with death.They put the stones on their fields and made them sacrifices if the harvest was rich. If harvest was bad the Nomoli have been punished ritually and whipped. The faces of the Nomoli figures show typical characteristics:They have a very big nose like an eagle with nostrils, a big mouth, sometimes showing teeth and significant eyes.Their skulls are flat. The sculptures have various poses and expression.The majority are human figures, some riding on horses, most of them sitting with crossed legs or on their knees. Some put their faces in their hands. Sometimes the figures have weapons or a shield. Angelo Pitoni, an Italian geologist, deals with the Nomoli statues. He took some organic samples from the places the figures where found.To define the age different materials haven been taken, e.g. founds made of wood (a stick that was found in a depth of 10 meters). Prof. Giorgio Belluomini from University of Rome examined the artefact and estimated its age of 400 to 500 years. In 1992 the object was analysed three times and the C-14-dating showed an age of 2470 years, +/- 50 years. Until that day one thought that the only civilisation in Western Africa was the so-called Afro-Portuguese civilisation, about 400 years old. But the Nomoli objects do not fit this conception. The dating of the Nomoli still is a problem.The figures that laid in deeper stratums were raw and simple made.The statues are made of different sorts of stone, soft materials as well as hard granite. In West African cultures those sculptures are worshiped a lot. Most of the figures have been found in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and on the Ivory coast: Partially they laid in geological stratums that were 10 to 12 meters beyond the surface. So they have to be very old. Some of the pieces are said to be found in a depth of 50 meters. The natives often call the figures “men in stone”. But some see them as guardian god and god who brings luck . - DZ.017



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