Tadep figure, Nigeria


20 x 5 1/2 x 5 1/8 in. (51 x 14 x 13 cm)


About this object

The Mambila are found on either side of the border between Nigeria and Cameroon, the majority living on the Mambila Plateau in Nigeria. The Mambila Plateau has been almost completely emptied of sculpture by art traders, apparently in the 1960s and 1970s. Of all Mambila figurines, only two types have been widely collected: tadep and kike. Tadep, like the one from the Bët-bi collection, are usually male-female pairs, carved of low-density wood (silk-cotton tree). These statuettes, and other figurines representing animals, were stored in granaries, and on display outside the granaries, which sometimes had paintings on the exterior walls. In the past, these figurines have been described as ‘ancestor figures’, but nowadays there is some disagreement as to whether the Mambila practice ancestor worship. It is more likely that the objects were the sacra of associations concerned with illness and healing.

Zeitlyn, David. “Mambila Figurines and Masquerades: Problems of Interpretation.” African Arts 27, no. 4 (Autumn 1994): 38-47+94.