Figure with Four Arms (nommo)
Mali: Bandiagara Escarpment region
Wood, sacrificial patina
23 1/2 x 2 5/8 x 2 3/4 in (59.69 x 6.6675 x 6.985 cm)
Bequest of Victor K. Kiam
This sculpture, because of its simplified geometric forms, plank-like back, raised arms, and thick crust of sacrificial material has features identifying it with work of the Tellem people, a group whose presence preceded the Dogon in the Bandiagara Escarpment, a dry and inhospitable region of steep cliffs in Mali between the Niger RIver and the border with Burkina Faso.
However, style is not always an accurate indication of the sculpture's date. The Dogon people, who converged upon the area between the 13th and 15th centuries, have made sculptures in "Tellum" style as recently as the past century. In both Dogon and Tellum art, the upraised arms of the sculptural figure are interpreted as a prayer for rain