Tiv Female Figure, Nigeria
height 22 1/4in (56.5cm)
Mort Lipkin, Arizona
American Private Collection
"The Tiv are relative strangers to the Benue River Valley, having expanded into the region from the southeast (in present-day Cameroon) prior to the nineteenth century. In the process they separated Idoma and Jukun populations, who had once been neighbors, and interrupted what would have been strong cultural continuities between those two communities. The Tiv brought with them their own material culture, but because their worldview was one of great openness to other art forms, their sculptural traditions came to reveal influences borrowed from nearby groups.
The Ihambe were a special kind of Akombo (or religious emblem), which conferred protective powers upon the couple. After his marriage, a man might receive Ihambe from his father's family, his mother's family, or both. The patterns of scarification around the navel of the female figure reflect those made on Tiv women when they became mature.
The markings on this sculpture reference the complex scarification designs on the stomachs of unmarried women, which symbolize the catfish or mudfish. The scars were said to promote fertility." (Fowler Museum, WEB, nd, 2013)