iagalagana figures
Mumuye artists are famous for their wooden statues known as iagalagana.

Until the 1970s most Mumuye sculpture was misattributed to their neighbors the Chamba.
With no royal system, the Mumuye are organized by age classes and choose a village chief who is assisted by a council of elders. The vabong secret
society regulates Mumuye religious life. Entry into the society is achieved through initiation ceremonies. The initiation of boys begins at the age of ten
and takes place in a tsafi hut, where the statues are kept.

Even though the Mumuye show great respect for the sculls of the ancestors, their statuary does not depict ancestors, but rather incarnates tutelary
spirits. Yet, statues reinforce the status and prestige of their owner who, as he holds them in his hands, has a dialogue with them and thus ensures his
personal protection. The functions of sculptural figures are varied. They were used by both diviners and healers, whose professions included diagnosis
and cure of ill health and other kinds of misfortunes. The figures were used to greet rainmaker's clients, guard the house, serve as owner's confidant,
and in trials when men in dispute swear on the statue, which they must kiss. Elders used them to reinforce their status in society. It was not unusual for a
figure simultaneously to serve two or more functions.

The size of statues varies from 20 centimeters to 1.6 meters. Mumuye figures are highly abstracted, perhaps in part because they invoke forms of human
and supernatural authority. The statue may have added elements: beads, belts, bracelets, chains, leather laces, ropes or braided vegetable matter,
brass wires, or cowrie shells. The statues’ principal characteristic, unique in African art, is the openwork between the body and the arms, which forms a
scroll or a spiral around the slender, cylindrical bust. The legs are usually angular, and ribbon-like arms wrap around the torso with elbows clearly
marked. The heads may display a coiffure in the form of a crest. Scarification on face and body is delineated and nasal septum may be perforated for the
insertion of a short section of a stalk of Guinea corn.

A number of such sculptures have large ears with pierced and distended earlobes for the insertion of plugs. The Mumuye distinguish the gender of the
figures on the basis of the shape of the ears; only Mumuye women distend their earlobes. This may be the only clue to determining the gender of a
figure in the older examples.
Mumuye iagalagana figure
19" tall
Acquired from Tim and Bobbi Hamill, Hamill Gallery, Boston

A really great smaller figure with a lot of character
Examples below of various styles for reference purposes
Ex-Privatslg. Miehler
Nigeria, MUMUYE  

Zemanek-Munster Auction - Lot 218 · Figure ·  estimate 2.250,00 Euro

wood, dark, spotty patina

standing female figure, u-shaped leg zone, feet in comparison to the body turned to the left, long, small torso, over a massive neck
head with highcrested coiffure and big ears, face with scratched tattoos, dam., small missing pieces (coiffure), cracks, on socle

H: 78 cm

Provenance: Coll. Prof. Dirk Vonck, Brussels; Coll. Niemöller, Ratingen

LOT 108


estimate 30,000—45,000 EUR
Lot Sold.  Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium:   30,000 EUR

haut. 78 cm

alternate measurements
30 1/2 in

Selon les canons esthétiques de la statuaire mumuye, le corps est droit, les volumes stylisés, les
longs bras détachés du corps, tournant autour du torse longiligne, tête et en particulier jambes
proportionnellement plus petits que le reste du corps. Elle se distingue par ses lignes très
épurées, le torse traité en deux cônes inversés, le cou cylindrique bien séparé des épaules, la
tête hémisphérique au visage plat animé en son centre par une large ligne verticale où se
détachent successivement les volumes stylisés du nez, de la bouche et du menton, encadrée
d'yeux ronds classiques, le creux de la gravure rehaussé de kaolin, deux simples scarifications
verticales sur les joues. Patine noire, laissant apparaître la couleur brune du bois dense, à patine
brillante, sur les parties sollicitées.

Condition Note: Extrémité de l'oreille droite cassée, recollée.

Maria Wyss, Bâle, 1970

Catalogue de l'exposition Gesichter Afrikas, Luzern, 1972, chez le photographe suisse Ernst

Acquise en 1970, cette œuvre fait donc partie des premières statues mumuye parvenues en
Occident. La statuaire mumuye - intervenant dans des rituels thérapeutiques, prophylactiques ou
liés à la pluie - ne fut en effet découverte qu'en 1968, les rares exemplaires parvenus en Occident
ayant été jusqu'alors attribués aux Chamba voisins; la première publication sur le thème date de
1970 (Fry: 1970, vol. X, fasc. 1).
Mumuye figure at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY
Sotheby's - Paris
Art Africain et Océanien, African and Oceanic Sale
Auction Date : Dec 5, 2003


debout sur des jambes courtes et anguleuses. Les hanches cylindriques qui soutiennent
un long torse surplombé d'épaules tout en rondeur et enveloppé de longs bras plats
tournés vers l'intérieur, laissant voir des mains larges et stylisées. Le cou, à la fois
puissant et long, supporte une tête presque abstraite montrant un visage resserré sur
l'essentiel : 2 petits yeux ronds en creux, un nez court encadré par 3 grandes
scarifications soulignées de kaolin au dessus d'une bouche esquissée. Cette tête est
couverte d'une coiffure à crête centrale et encadrée de 2 grandes oreilles rectangulaires
percées de larges orifices. Belle patine sur le bois noirci avec rehauts de kaolin.

Légers manques sur la coiffe, deux fentes sur l'épaule et le fessier.

haut. 93 cm

Estimate:€ 25,000 - € 35,000
Price Realized: € 0    

Vente Loudmer, 5 décembre, 1993

M. Dieter Scharf, Hambourg

Galerie Entwistle, Londres

Collection américaine
Skinner, Inc. - Bolton
American Indian and Ethnographic Art
Auction Date : May 11, 2002

Lot 67 :  African Carved Wood Figure, Mumuye,

Estimate:$ 400 - $ 600  
Price Realized:$ 1,116
Bonhams - London
Tribal Art
Auction Date : Jul 2, 2003

Lot 163 :  A Mumuye Wood Figure, Iagalagana

Carved with crescentic coiffure, with large circular eyes and dish shaped ears, the
face incised with geometric scarifications, carved with typical rounded shoulders and
hips with contrasting angular arms and legs, mounted, 90cm.

Estimate:£ 500 - £ 700
Price Realized:£ 470  
$ 855
Sotheby's - New York
African & Oceanic Art
Auction Date : Nov 11, 2005


measurements note
height 16in. 41cm

the angular legs supporting the slender torso with two central protrusions and framed by faceted arms beneath the head with
circular eyes and wearing a multi-tiered coiffure; dark brown patina.

$ 3,000 - $ 5,000
Sotheby's - New York
African & Oceanic Art
Auction Date : Nov 11, 2005


measurements note
height 41in. 104.1cm

standing on thick legs beneath the rounded hips and columnar torso framed by arms held to the sides, the slender neck supporting the
disc-shaped head with expressive features and long, square ears; blackened patina with areas of red and white pigment.

Harry A. Franklin Family Collection, Beverly Hills
Acquired from Sotheby's New York, April 21, 1966, lot 230

Hanover, New Hampshire, The Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Curator's Choice, January 2 - March 10, 1991

$ 5,000 - $ 7,000
Sotheby's - New York
African & Oceanic Art
Auction Date : Nov 11, 2005


measurements note
height 41in. 104.1cm

the muscular legs supporting the slender, arched torso with a protruding navel and rounded chest leading to arms suspended at the sides, the
small helmet-shaped head with large circular eyes and disc-like ears; varied dark brown patina with areas of kaolin.

Harry A. Franklin Family Collection, Beverly Hills
Acquired from Sotheby's New York, April 21, 1990, lot 233

Hanover, New Hampshire, The Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Curator's Choice, January 2 - March 10, 1991

$ 5,000 - $ 7,000
Sotheby's - New York
African & Oceanic Art
Auction Date : Nov 11, 2005


measurements note
height 42 1/2 in. 108cm

standing on wedge-shaped feet, the tapered hips supporting the slender torso framed by elongated bent arms held to the front beneath the
small oval head with pursed lips, straight nose and wearing a crested coiffure pendant at the sides; fine deep brown patina.

The Harry A. Franklin Family Collection, Beverly Hills
Acquired from Sotheby's New York, April 21, 1990, lot 232

Hanover, New Hampshire, The Hood Museum, Dartmouth College, Curator's Choice, January 2, 1991 - March 10, 1991

The fine selection of three Mumuye works offered here were each formerly in the Harry A. Franklin Collection and acquired from Sotheby's New
York in 1990 (lots 65, 66 and 67). The three figures demostrate the 'high degree of stylistic diversity which parallels the variety of functions of
Mumuye figures: some were used as oracles, others in connection with healing and still others reinforced the status of important elders as
embodiments of vaguely conceived tutelary spirits. At times, one figure acted in two or more of these capacities. A particular function cannot be
correlated with size, style or other formal attributes' (Rubin in Vogel 1981: 155-158).

$ 15,000 - $ 25,000
Height 73 cm
Mumuye peoples, Nigeria
20th century
Height 114.5 cm (45 1/8 in.)
Collection of Charles and Kent Davis

Field collected, Charles Davis
Charles and Kent Davis

Photograph by Franko Khoury

From the exhibition:
Treasures - Aesthetic Discoveries/Visual Delights
National Museum of African Art
Mumuye peoples, Nigeria
20th century
Height 99.1 cm (39 in.)
Collection of Charles and Kent Davis

Field collected, Charles Davis
Charles and Kent Davis

Photograph by Franko Khoury

From the exhibition:
Treasures - Aesthetic Discoveries/Visual Delights
National Museum of African Art
H. 120 cm
Tomkins Collection

Mumuye figures were used in divination and
healing rituals as well as house guardians. (Phillips
1995: 363)

Johann Levy, Paris, 2003
Mumuye, Nigeria
Wood, organic material; H. 99 cm (39 in.)
19th–20th century
Fondation Beyeler, Riehen (Basel)

From: Art and Oracle - Metropolitan Museum of Art

Sculptors in Nigeria's Benue River valley have created a broad range of variations on the bold
conception of the human form represented by this piece. Although the role such works originally
played is undocumented, and therefore remains unclear, the primary one that has been attributed
to them is as an oracle. Mumuye sculptural works, which range in scale from 20 to 160 centimeters,
appear to have been deployed for a variety of needs, including divination, healing, and protection.1

According to Jan Strybol, figurative sculpture enhanced the influence and reputations of leaders
and religious specialists in Mumuye society by furthering their efforts to predict the future, heal the
sick, and make rain fall.2 Their interaction with these figurative implements is characterized as a
dialogue prompted by physical handling. According to some accounts, applications of substances
such as the juice of the gadele plant on the figure's face might serve as a catalyst for activating its
power to communicate. When manipulated over the course of judicial trials, the figure may judge the
veracity of testimony provided, and its heightened awareness enables it to identify criminals.3

In the dynamic figural abstraction shown here, the attenuated columnar form of the torso constitutes
the dominant feature. Within its boundaries, a lyrical play of negative and positive space unfolds
around the vertical axis framed and circumscribed by bodily appendages. At the top, the helmetlike
head includes two prominent sagittal crests flanked by lateral extensions. The only facial feature
given form here is the gaping orifice of the mouth.

The smooth, polished surface of the torso is minimally articulated through finely rendered nipples
and a boldly projecting conical navel carved in relief. The shoulders are represented as a
continuous mass that extends down into long lateral arms, bent at the elbows; the forearms reach
around toward the front, terminating in the abbreviated masses of the hands at the level of the
pelvis. At this juncture, the lower body, consisting of a horizontal element that bridges blocky legs
with accented knees, echoes the passages of the shoulders and the head. A sense of vitality and a
suggestion of swaying motion are introduced into the design through subtle modulations of the
bilateral symmetry. These include the slightly higher angle of the arm and shifting of weight on the
figure's left side.

This monumental sculpture is very closely related in form to one in the collection of The
Metropolitan Museum of Art, attributed by Arnold Rubin on stylistic grounds to the regionally
important carving center of Pantisawa.4 Although sculptors do not ordinarily enjoy positions of
privilege in Mumuye society, the work of the best sculptors is held in sufficiently high regard that
their reputations live on beyond their lifetime.5

1. Arnold Rubin, entries for cat. nos. 91 and 92 in For Spirits and Kings: African Art from the Paul
and Ruth Tishman Collection, ed. Susan M. Vogel, exh. cat. (New York: The Metropolitan Museum
of Art, 1981), p. 155.

2. Jan Strybol, "Les Mumuye," in Arts du Nigéria: Collection du Musée des Arts d'Afrique et
d'Océanie (Paris: Réunion des Musée Nationaux, 1997), p. 239.

3. Philip Fry, "Essai sur la statuaire Mumuye," Objets et Mondes 10, no. 1 (1970), p. 27.

4. Rubin, in For Spirits and Kings, p. 155.

5. Fry, "Essai," p. 27; Strybol, "Les Mumuye," p. 279