Standing figures like this object reflect a popular Olmec style that is likely related to an important pan-Mesoamerican ritual associated with the spiritual/magical transformation between humans and the natural world. This transition was often associated with animals including jaguars, toads, and bats, and may have been connected to the ingestion of hallucinogenic drugs and very likely connected to notions of spiritual and political authority. The most notable features associated with this connection include larger eyes (which may have held inlaid objects such as obsidian), a triangular face more indicative of Guerrero styles such as the Mezcala and Chontal, as well as the upper lip/mustache/fangs, which likely were inlaid as well with materials such as obsidian or shell.
The Olmec are often considered by scholars to be one of the most influential cultures in Mesoamerica. Ritualistic representations like this would be maintained by later cultures such as the Mixtec, Maya, and Aztec (also known as the Mexica or the Triple Alliance).
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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