One of the most exciting aspects of dealing in African tribal art is the search for really old and interesting objects. Whilst traditional art is still produced for the tourist market and also for use in traditional rituals, occasionally we have the opportunity to acquire something which is a little bit special.

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By special, I mean of exceptional form and sometimes very old, showing clear signs of use for the objects original intended purpose. A recent delivery to the African Origins warehouse in Melbourne was a box which held a dozen pieces which certainly fill this criteria.

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During my last buying trip to Africa, I was introduced to a gentleman in Cape Town who had worked for ESKOM which the state is owned generator and supplier of electricity to South Africa, and an exporter of electricity to other African nations. During the 1960’s and 1970’s, Eskom also assisted in big infrastructure projects all over Africa and the former owner of these stunning objects, was sent to the Congo, Namibia, Gabon and several other counties in the region.


Being a keen collector of art objects from all over the world including Africa, he made contact with dealers of tribal art in all of the places in which he worked and thus had the opportunity to acquire some really nice pieces for his collection. He and his wife are returning to live in the United Kingdom and have decided to divest themselves of a significant part of their collection.

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to purchase a number of beautiful African maternity figures from this collection, most from the Congo but also a fine Baule example from the Ivory Coast. All have exceptional form and beautiful warm patina which suggests considerable age and that also indicates they were valued and used in tribal ritual as would be expected.

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Maternity figures are found in many African cultures and although their original significance has been lost to time, it is generally supposed that they symbolizes woman as the source of human fertility and the bearer of healthy children.

It is thought due to dress, bearing and jewellery, the statues often represent women of high status and so the infants represented symbolize healthy future rulers.

All of the maternity figures we have recently acquired at African Origins are monoxylous, that is, carved from one piece, and are usually shown with only one child either clinging to the mother’s back or being fed from the breast.

According to the belief systems of many African tribes, children are blessings from the gods. Before the advent of modern medicine, women petitioned certain deities for fertility and the safe birth of a healthy infant. The shrines to these deities were adorned with sculptured figures representing a mother and child.

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In order to qualify some of the items we sell online from the African Origins website, we have created a special section called ‘Connoisseur’s Corner.’ This section of the African Origins website will be reserved for examples of African tribal art we consider to be of exceptional interest and quality. Needless to say, our collection of African maternity figures is represented and we invite you to have a look at these beautiful objects by clicking here. http://www.africanorigins.com.au/connoisseurs-corner/

All are available for sale online and come with a 30 day return guarantee. If you are not happy, simply return the object to our Melbourne warehouse in original condition and we will refund the purchase price in full.

The same goes for any piece of African tribal art you purchase from the African Origins website.

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