Ibibio Figure Group (Hanuman)

West Africa, Nigeria
Ibibio or Ogoni, mid 20th Century
Wood, paint, sacrificial material
Mid-20th Century
Gift of William S. Arnett

Hanuman is the simian-god, who is devoted to Rama and a key character in the Ramayana, an epic describing the life of Rama, an avatar of Vishnu. Rama and Hanuman meet in the fifth book of the Ramayana, when Rama is exiled from Ayodhya, the capital of his kingdom. Rama and his brother Lakshmana search for Rama’s wife Sita, who was kidnapped by Ravana, who seeks revenge against Rama for harming his sister. In sculpture and print Hanuman is often depicted holding a scepter and Mount San Jeevani and standing with one leg on a rock, but here he appears in another depiction, carrying Rama and Lakshmana and trampling the giant Kalanemi, who was sent by Ravana to kill Hanuman.
As a sculpture enshrined, Hanuman is typically coated with offerings of ghee and painted with vermilion, which has antiseptic and healing properties, and demonstrates his fearlessness and assertiveness. This Hanuman has evidence of blood poured over it, suggesting that it was appropriated for another use.