Male ancestor figure

19th–20th century
Artist Unidentified

Object Place: Cameroon


66.04 cm (26 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


On View

Richard B. Carter Gallery (Gallery 171)


Africa and Oceania, Contemporary Art



Forceful images such as this one were created by Mambila artists as foci for protective spirits in the healing rituals of the Suaga association. The human type, known as tadep, usually has a large face and often displays the hand-to-mouth gesture implying deference. These characteristics were radically simplified in the unusual example shown here. The small concave face seems to be compressed by the triangular ears and overhanging brow. The body has been transformed into an inhuman cylindrical form of deep angular planes with serrated edges, creating an effect of explosive energy.


Marc Rabun, New York and Bryce P. Holcombe (d. 1983), New York [see note]; to Pace Primitive and Ancient Art, New York (stock no. 51-7848); October 3, 1985, sold by Pace Primitive and Ancient Art to William and Bertha Teel, Marblehead, MA; 1991, year-end gift of William and Bertha Teel to the MFA. (Accession Date: January 22, 1992)

NOTE: Yale Van Rijn Archive of African Art, no. 0047327. Holcombe was director of Pace Primitive and Ancient Art until his death in 1983.

Credit Line

Gift of William E. and Bertha L. Teel