A Bamana female figure jonyeleni, Mali
height 22 1/2in
Alfie Scheinberg, New York
"Jonyeleni (or nyeleni, meaning "little ornaments") are freestanding sculptures depicting nubile young women. In creating these figures, sculptors portray the Bamana ideal of feminine beauty: a strong neck and straight back, a pair of prominent breasts, broad shoulders, a long slender torso and narrow waist, and very large buttocks. They carve geometric patterns on the figures' chests, torsos and backs to represent the scarification that signifies a girl's initiation into adult society. The figures are rubbed with oil, clothed and adorned with beads and other ornaments to resemble Bamana women dressed for festive occasions" (Ezra 1986:17-21).