Lot: 129

95th Tribal Art Auction

Female figure "jo nyeleni"

Mali, Bamana

Provenance Size Starting price / estimated price
Old British Collection (coll. in the 1960s/ 70s) H: 43.3 inch 6500 EUR
plus 23 % commission, VAT, transport and insurance

wood, metal, rest. "Nyeleni" figures are property of the "jo" (also "dyow") - society. They are used during "numu jo" initiation performances that take place every seven years. During the performance, the initiate children are "killed" and fully formed men are "reborn" into the community as "children of jo" ("jodenw"). "Nyeleni" figures are carried by the "jodenw", or placed on the ground, during the "numu jo" performance of song and dance. "Numu jo" performances tour several villages so that the men can display their newly acquired knowledge and earn gifts of money from villagers. The figures add to the visual appeal of the performance and communicate the eligibility of the initiates as suitable husbands. It is said that the figures also represent an ideal wife for the initiates: youthful, feminine and beautiful.


Fagaly, William, Ancestors of Congo Square, New Orleans 2011