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Unknown Maker
Memorial Head (Mma) Memorial Head (Mma)
unknown date unknown date

Among the Akan peoples, terracotta figures have been created since at least the 17th-century as funerary sculpture. These objects were used in funerary processions, and sometimes installed later in a place known as asensie, or the ‘place of pots,’ which could be located within the graveyard or adjacent to it. The figures can be heads separate from a body, or full length, or they are sometimes incorporated into a vessel.

In many cases the sculptures are thought by scholars to be posthumous portraits, generally of an important person, such as a leader. The form focuses more on attributes of an individual’s status, rather than their physiognomy, but specific people can be recognized based on unique scarification patterns and coiffure. Despite the wide range of regional stylistic differences, there are some common idealizations seen in the commemorative figures: the heads are often flattened, the necks are striated, the facial expressions serene, and most importantly, the figure as a whole is balanced and symmetrical.

Akan ceramic artists are female in all but a few cases because of this culture’s belief in the cosmological division of labour, in which women are associated with the earth, and men with water. This has been the tradition since the inception of this practice: generally only women are permitted to work with clay.

 
Unknown Maker
Akan peoples Akan peoples
Memorial Head (Mma) Memorial Head (Mma)
unknown date unknown date
terracotta terracotta
height / width / depth: 20.50 x 14.30 x 13.00 cm; 8.07 x 5.63 x 5.12 in.
Gift of Justin and Elisabeth Lang, 1984 Gift of Justin and Elisabeth Lang, 1984
M84-175

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