Commemorative "Portrait" Head

11008110-1994_004_566_Gpa_ARC.tif

Title

Commemorative "Portrait" Head

Keywords

Ceramic, effigy, portrait, sculpture

Date

18th-19th Century

Context

West Africa, Ghana
Akan, Aowin

Medium/Dimensions

Terracotta
9 x 5 3/16 in. (22.9 x 13.2 cm)

Object Number

1994.004.566

Description

Throughout africa the body of a deceased person is buried often very soon after death. Months or even up to a year later, at a "second burial' ceremony, the deceased person is fully honored during a rite that facilitates their transformation into an ancestor with whom living family members maintain contact. At the "second burial" ceremonies of the Akan, deceased members of the elite class are portrayed in commemorative ceramic images such as this delicate little head , a physical substitute for the deceased, which was once attached to a vessel or a complete figure.

Although this head represents a particular person, it is not a true portrait as the features are stylized and generalized. Instead of re-creating the physical likeness of the individual, the artist focused on the gender and social status of the person through the use of identifying marks such as hairstyle, scarification patterns, and body adornments. At the conclusion of the "second burial" ceremony, the portrait was taken to the asensie (place of pots), a sacred space in the bush, where the family could continue to communicate with the ancestors.

Credit Line

Ex coll. William S. Arnett

Exhibits/Publications

Spirited Vessels: Creation and Ritual in African Ceramics, Michael C. Carlos Museum, February 7 - April 11, 2004

Rights

© Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. Photo by Bruce M. White, 2008.
This image is provided by the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University, who retains all rights in it. This image is made available for limited non-commercial, educational, and personal use only, or for fair use as defined by United States law. For all other uses, please contact the Michael C. Carlos Museum Office of Collections Services at +1(404) 727-4282 or mccm.collections.services@emory.edu. Users must cite the author and source of the image as they would material from any printed work, but not in any way that implies endorsement of the user or the user's use of the image. Users may not remove any copyright, trademark, or other proprietary notices, including without limitation attribution information, credits, and copyright notices that have been placed on or near the image by the Museum. The Museum assumes no responsibility for royalties or fees claimed by the artist or third parties. The User agrees to indemnify and hold harmless Emory University, its Michael C. Carlos Museum, its agents, employees, faculty members, students and trustees from and against any and all claims, losses, actions, damages, expenses, and all other liabilities, including but not limited to attorney’s fees, directly or indirectly arising out of or resulting from its use of photographic images for which permission is granted hereunder.

On View

No

Citation

“Commemorative "Portrait" Head,” Michael C. Carlos Museum Collections Online, accessed November 18, 2017, http://carlos.digitalscholarship.emory.edu/items/show/7953.

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