STATUETTE IBO - NIGERIA
The Ibo (or Igbo) people, a dozen million souls, occupy a vast plateau between the Niger River and the Cross River, in the southeast of the State of Nigeria.
The Ibo, farmers and traders, are organized into village communities. Alumni societies and initiatory associations which ensure the cohesion of the socio-political system. Ibo's artistic performances are extremely rich.
The Ibo, especially in the north-central Onitsha-Awka region, retain many statues in their family sanctuaries and in the initiatory association common houses called "men's houses". These statues represent conceptual deities such as the Earth, Rivers, War or more temporal divinities such as ancestors of lineage or legendary heroes. The statues of the same sanctuary form a "family". Carved in the wood of Iroko, they were guarded by the priest of the sanctuary, who washed them, purified them, painted them, polished them, dressed them with ornaments corresponding to specific titles and offered them sacrifices. Every year during the dry season, at the "Festival of Images", the sculptures are dressed very elaborately, adorned with jewels and danced to the sound of drums. The sculptures are then aligned to receive offerings.
These statues correspond to a rather established canon: their legs spread apart and their arms detached from the body with their hands stretched out as an offering, "in a gesture that shows not only the generosity of the gods but also their will To receive sacrifices and offerings. The open palms also mean "I have nothing to hide," suggesting honesty and good looks "(Cole, quoted by De Grunne, 2010, 10).However in this canon emerge several styles. Our sculpture belongs to the naturalistic style of the region of Awka, Onitsha and Kwalé in the north center. It is possible that it is in the hands of the "master of Awka", a sculptor identified by Bernard de Grunne to whom he attributes a series of alusi statues displaying a certain stylistic proximity with this statue. De Grunne defines this style as follows: "The style of this master of Awka is the canonical and classical style of the Igbo statuary (...). It can be defined as an elegant naturalism, a perfect balance of proportions between the different parts of the body and a great refinement in the treatment of the head with facial features very delicately modeled "(idem, pp. 10-11).
This statue is characterized by very beautiful scarifications. Those on the torso, in chevrons, are of the mbubu type; The streaks on the top of the face are scarifications itchi, appanage of the dignitaries of ozo society. This way of scarifying the face has been in use for at least a millennium since it can be seen on small bronze heads found in the region and dating from the 9th-10th centuries. Other peculiarities of this object are the magnificent patina and polychromy, which emphasize the volumes of this monumental representation. The yellow pigment that coats the body is a symbol of peace, and the whitening of eyes, cheeks and ears symbolizes purity. In many places (on the feet, calves, arms, back and neck), there are traces of red pigment with which the statue was regularly rubbed. This pigment, which was also used in the practices of body embellishment, gives the statue a thick and glossy patina, much appreciated by the Ibo. The blanched portions carved at the wrists and ankles represent ivory bracelets. The peaked hairstyle testifies to the importance of hair art to the Ibo, who are famous for their particularly elaborated sculptural headdresses.