Memorial head



Akan peoples
c. 18th–19th century
more object details

General Description

Akan portraiture is generic and idealized; however, Akan viewers would recognize the subject based on the individualized hairstyle and specific facial scarification at the temples.

When an Akan royal or other person of high social status died, a ceramist was commissioned to create a commemorative image. The artist, always an elderly woman, would gaze into a bowl of palm oil or water and see the deceased's image, which she modeled in clay. The fired clay image—which might be a full figure, bust, or head—was paraded through the community and then deposited in a special field near the cemetery. Left along with the figure were clay images of court officials and servants that would continue to support the deceased in the afterlife.

It was customary to pour a libation with a prayer that the image truly represented the deceased and that his or her spirit would enter the modeled image.

Excerpt from

Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, Arts of Africa, 2015.

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