Iagalagana ritual figure
Early 20th century
Carved wood and pigments
Height: 99.5 cm – 39 ¼ in.
Ex collection Hélène Leloup Kamer, Paris
Ex collection Austin Newton, Princeton, Etats-Unis,
Acquired from the above in the early 1970s
Jacques Kerchache, Portrait, Quai Branly Museum, Paris, 2003
The Mumuye live in the foothills of the Shebshi Mountains near the banks of the Benue in eastern Nigeria. They used sculptures called Iagalagana in different rituals: the figures played a central role in ancestor worship and in curing ceremonies. Statues acted as intermediaries with the spirit world, contributing to bolster the status of the family that owned them.
The discovery in North-Eastern Nigeria of Mumuye statuary at the time of the « Biafra War » (1967-1970) came as a real shock. Out of the blue, a fascinatingly modern and inventive art became known to the Western public.
Mumuye sculptures are strikingly reminiscent of the works of major 20th century artists like Henry Moore or Alberto Giacometti.