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International Journal of Transpersonal Studies

Abstract

Contemporary U.S. society is full of stereotypical images that marginalize and degrade Black women’s bodies (Bogle, 1994; Collins, 2000; Gilkes, 2001). However, many precolonial, spiritually based cultures of North and West Africa (Badejo, 1996; Gleason, 1987; Jell-Bahlsen, 2008) developed indigenous concepts of the African Sacred Feminine, a term I use to describe African representations of the feminine aspects of nature and divinity, as well as the innate, human and spiritual powers embodied by women. Using artistic depictions from ancient Algeria, dynastic Egypt, and West and Central Africa, this essay explores several iconographic traits of the African Sacred Feminine: nudity or seminudity combined with symbolic adornment, scarification patterns, highly coiffured hair and elaborate headdresses, human-animal hybrids, and elemental or cosmic associations. Notably absent in transpersonal literature, these historic tropes, found in the work of modern Black women artists AfraShe Asungi and Earthlyn Manuel, provide alternative counter-stereotypic visions of Black women’s bodies.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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