Ceremonial vessel



Igbo peoples
20th century, before 1980
more object details

General Description

The upper portion of this roughly globular vessel with a long ringed neck is elaborately decorated with textured and plain interlocking triangles separated by raised lines and circles. The rounded bottom of the vessel rested on a fiber ring. The source of inspiration for this vessel's ornamentation may be the ancient ceramics and bronze castings from Igbo Ukwu, an important archaeological site where the oldest examples of Igbo pottery has been found. If so, the ornamentation here has not been slavishly copied but modified and embellished through successive generations of innovative female potters.

Before the introduction of imported ceramic and metal wares, Igbo women and girls made various kinds of pottery to serve a host of utilitarian and ritual purposes. Girls learned from their mothers to form pots% without a potter's wheel and fire them in an open pit or on the ground. They used hand-building and coiling techniques for basic shapes and decorated the surface with sculptural, incised, combed, or rouletted ornamentation. The vessels could be burnished with smooth stones, and in areas near Hausa settlements, painted after firing.

This elegant and elaborately decorated vessel was not for use in a domestic context but in the shrines where the gods and ancestors were served with the best vessels and other ritual paraphernalia.

Adapted from

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

  • Roslyn A. Walker, DMA unpublished material, 2013.

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