Lot: 27

Anthropomorphic figure "nomoli"

Sierra Leone, Mende / Sapi

Provenance Size Hammer price
Helmut Gernsheim, Castagnola, Switzerland
Arendt Oetker, Berlin, Germany
Gerhard de Vos, Dormagen, Germany
Bernhard Jäger, Frankfurt a. M., Germany (2009)
H: 5.1 inch sold

soapstone (steatite),

These archaic-looking stone figures are called "nomoli" (pl. "nomolisia") by the Mende and "pomdo" (pl. "pomtan") by the Kissi.

Not only the creators of these figures but also their original function are the subject of constant debate. It is thought that the figures were commemorative, representing the regenerative force of an identifiable, honored ancestor or a recently deceased prominent person.

The found figures are reused in a variety of ritual contexts by peoples in the area. The Mende look upon them as "rice gods" made by previous inhabitants or by spirits and make offerings to them to increase their harvests. The Kissi people for their part believe that they are manifestations of their deceased ancestors and place them in wooden anthropomorphic ancestor shrines. In some areas they are also used as oath-taking figures.


Wolfram, Siegfried A., Liberia, Feldkirchen-Westerham 2012, p. 71, ill. 75