Adamo Kamte
Madonna and Child
Burkina Faso – Bobo Dioulasso
Missionary-Ethnological Museum, Inv. AF 8202

General Description  

Carved from a single cylinder of wood, the Madonna stands tall and elegant, the tiny baby tucked lovingly in her arms and hands. Adamo Kamte’s sculpture, a gift for John Paul II in 1990 (see dedication at the base) strikes a successful balance between European iconography of the mid-twentieth century and motifs of African origin. Kamte’s country of origin is Burkina Faso, formerly Upper Volta, a landlocked region south of the Sahara desert in Western Africa. A longtime French colony and overseas territory, the religious culture of the small number of Christians has been marked by French missionaries. Roughly translated, Burkina Faso means “the land of the upright people.” In fact, the proud simplicity and delicate elegance of this sculpture reflects the national motto with great accuracy. If in a different context, “upright people” may mean valiant and loyal, in our case it stands for Mary’s spiritual reality. The “extreme verticality” of this sculpture presents affinities with A. Giacometti’s interpretation of the human body, but it contrasts the tortured souls of his figures with pronounced serenity of mind and body. Reducing matter to a still viable limit, and form to a minimum of movement, the artist presents us with a symbol of absorbed contemplation.

The object of this absorbed contemplation is the tiny baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, and held with great reverence. Carved in the Eastern tradition of the “bandaged” Christ Child, which leaves only the face of the baby uncovered, the sculptural rendering of the Son of Mary suggests indeed more an object of contemplation than a flesh-and-blood human being. But the tiny form reflects and accentuates the overall atmosphere of spiritual reality and endeavor. This is not to say that there is no tender intimacy between mother and child. We find similarity in the facial expressions of mother and son, and the curvature in the child’s form underscores affinity and affectionate closeness with the mother.

For more information:

Consult the exhibit catalog: The Mother of God: Art Celebrates Mary,  pp. 128-129.

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