Olmec baby-like ceramic figures like the one seen here were often also slipped or painted in white, red, and lastly in black tones on the “helmet.” While the exact meaning of these figures is not known, their open mouths and “pudgy” bodies were a common feature of Olmec sites; the helmet has been noted to be similar to well-known colossal Olmec head sculptures.
Hollow, this type of object may have been made with a mold—an ancient example of mass production. Scholars argue that the baby or baby-face figures may have represented sacrifices, rituals concerning birth, deities or spiritual forces, or even memorials for babies who had died.
Meleko Mokgosi receives the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Fine Arts for paintings that rely on intensive research, reflection, and conversation in order to address widespread misrepresentation of Africa and Africans, and to accurately portray the continent’s complex social and political realities.
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