The Bambara (also known as Bamana) are an ethnic group of people native to West Africa, predominantly in southern Mali. Bambara carved female figures like this one are called nyeleni, a name which can be interpreted to mean "little pretty one." This small statue has the long thin nose, rectangular ears, and high-swept hair arrangement that represent the Bambara ideal of feminine beauty. Her arms are rigidly at her sides, with hands flat, and she is anatomically correct. Typically called a fetish, the figure is used in initiations where boys become adult men.
This carving is obviously hand made from a dark brown wood with a smooth surface on the figure and a rougher one on the small circular base. Measuring about 7 inches tall, its about 1 1/4 inches across the shoulders and weighs less than 3 ounces. It stands upright, but is easily tipped if even slightly bumped so we recommend using Museum Gel on the bottom to secure it.
The statue was made in the mid-to-late 20th century and is in excellent condition. Its cubist geometric lines look great in a modern setting and it mixes well with African and other ethnic objects.