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Commemorative Head


Artwork Details

Commemorative Head
18th century - 19th century
terracotta, string and beads
13 3/8 in x 8 1/16 in x 8 1/4 in (33.97 cm x 20.48 cm x 20.96 cm)
Gift of Dr. James and Vivian Curtis

On Display

Not currently on display


Subject Matter:

To commemorate and honor deceased rulers or prominent individuals, Akan-speaking peoples created terracotta heads such as this one. Called, among other names, mma, these commemorative heads were associated with the funerary rites of royalty, as average men and women only had funerary vessels made upon their death. This head could possibly represent the deceased individual, but it could also be a member of the court created to accompany the deceased. Although it is debated if mma were used in the burial itself or in the funeral service, which often took place weeks after the burial, after their use mma were kept in a special area of the cemetery, known as "the place of the pots". Throughout the year people would bring food and drink to honor these spirits, as ancestors could intervene in times of difficulty to assist their family.

References Cited:
McLeod, Malcolm D. 1981. The Asante. London: British Museum Publications Ltd.
Cole, Herbert M. and Doran H. Ross. 1977. The Art of Ghana. Los Angeles: UCLA Museum of Cultural History.

Physical Description:

This terracotta head with a striated neck is decorated with a pattern of raised knobs and two strings of multi-colored beads. The base of the neck is decorated with three rings of wavy lines. The face is somewhat flat and circular, tilting backwards slightly. There are three diagonal marks on each side of the open mouth. The eyes are almond shaped, framed by brows in the form of one curved line. The hairstyle is formed by four triangular projections. The oblong-shaped ears sit high on each side of the face. 

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