Sukuma figure from Tanzania
4 feet 10 inches tall (58")
Haya (?) Sukuma (?), or neighboring people, Tanzania


Use/function unknown
_______________________

"The Sukuma people are a comparatively large tribe and number approximately one million. They live in small villages in the northern part of Tanzania,
each of which is headed by a chief who is also a sorcerer and whose power is counterbalanced by secret societies.

Sukuma carvers are associated with large, rough-looking, standing figures, which have a weathered patina. In some instances these statues were made
either with articulated limbs or were carved without any arms and legs at all. The later figures may have been used as scarecrows and the figures carved
with articulated limbs, known as Amaleba, are used by musicians and dancers during ceremonies in the dry season, following the harvest. Another type of
tall, carved figure, to which fetish material is attached, is thought to represent an ancestor.

Sukuma masks have a fearful expression, exaggerated features, including applied eyebrows, and a beard and moustache, and, like their statues, have a
weathered patina. In common with the Amabela, Sukuma masks were also employed during dance ceremonies in the dry season. Steatopygous terracotta
figures with a small head and hands resting on their hips and long ivory necklaces were also made by Sukuma craftsmen."
Source: The Tribal Arts of Africa

Additional online resource on the Sukuma:

Sukuma Culture and Tanzania by Mark H.C. Bessire
The
Sukuma Museum website


Click on any image to see larger version
Map above showing the concentration of different ethnic groups in Tanzania.
The Haya and Sukuma are in the upper left hand side. You can click on the map to see a larger version.
Rand African Art
home page

Sukuma figures main page

Tanzanian figures main page

Sukuma figures, boundaries, and the arousal of spectacle
African Arts,  Spring, 2005  by Aimee Bessire
Click on the link above to go to the article in Look Smart

Sukuma dance figures at the Hamill Gallery
The pose of this figure is very unusual with the neck bent forward and the head turned to the side like it is.

One thing that I discovered, only while taking photos of this object, were 2 lines of pigment that ran down from
each eye, almost representing tears running down someone's face. It's more visible in some of the photos than
others. I don't know if this was originally, purposely done this way, or something that just happened, but my
thoughts are that it was intentional because of the tilt and angle of the head. If it was something that just
happened, then the lines would have run at a different angle because of the tilt, so that makes me think it was
intentional. It really gives this object a much more powerful and mysterious appeal to me.
The objects below are not in my collection
they are for reference purposes only
A Sukuma figure in the window of a gallery in the 2006 Parcours des mondes show. I loved the expression, and also the hand gesture.

Below are the photos of the Sukuma figure that I loved from the same gallery. I talked to the gallery owner and he said that figures such as this were
placed in fields to protect the crops, sort of how we use "scarecrow" figures. He was missing an arm, which was unfortunate, but it was still a very
interesting figure, at least to me. He explained that my Sukuma figure probably/possibly had the same purpose.