Malinke Ivory Bust of a Woman - PF.6177
Origin: Guinea
Circa: 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 6.25" (15.9cm) high
Collection: African
Style: Malinke
Medium: Ivory


The Malinke are descendants of the mighty Mali Empire that ruled much of Sub-Saharan West Africa during the first half of the second millennium. The empire reached its peak in the thirteenth century under the rule of King Sundiata, also known as the “Lion King,” who unified the various tribes of the kingdom and began to incorporate the surrounding people into the empire. Today, the Malinke people are spread out over several nations across West Africa; however, they are united by their common heritage and language. This gorgeous sculpture of a young woman represents the sensitive artistry of the Malinke people. Carved out of ivory, a treasured resource that is bountiful in this region, the softness of the portrait belies the density of the material. Her elegantly braided hair enhances her beauty and reveals her elite status. Such hairstyles were only worn by nobility, considering both the time and labor involved in such a meticulous process. Most likely, this bust is the idealized portrait of a young princess. She exudes a royal air, calm and determined, beautiful and elegant. This ivory bust eternally memorializes the soft beauty of this woman, a beauty that is all to fleeting in real life. - (PF.6177)



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