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(pl. nomolisia) Mende term for ancient stone figure sculptures found buried in the ground in south-eastern Sierra Leone and presumed to have been made by the original inhabitants of the country. They are characterised by large heads cantilevered forward from the neck, prominent eyes, broad fleshy nose and full lips. Their original function is obscure but the representation of nose- and ear-rings on some figures and of shields and weapons on others would suggest that they portray chiefs or group leaders of some kind. The date of their production has been a source of speculation. Stylistically they bear a resemblance to figures carved on Sapi-Portuguese ivories (q.v.) made by Sierra Leone artists for Portuguese patrons at the end of the 15th and first quarter of the 16th century, but contemporary Portuguese sources say nothing about stone sculpture in Sierra Leone at this time, and the carving of the nomoli figures may have been discontinued many years earlier. The Mende who find the stone figures make no claim to have made them but use them as 'rice gods' to encourage the growth of their crops.

  • A.Tagliaferri & A.Hammacher, Fabulous Ancestors (Milan 1974)
  • W.A.Hart & C.Fyfe, 'Stone sculptures of the Upper Guinea Coast', History in Africa, 1993, 20, 71-87.