Ashanti Funerary Head. Sculpture. Ancestral. Akan. Central Rain Forests. Ghana. Africa
Ashanti peoples – a major ethnic group of the Akans – transformed physicality to their beliefs about death and the afterlife through the medium of clay. From the second half of the sixteenth century, terracotta sculpture produced primarily by Ashanti women played a role in funerary rites . . . . memorializing the dead. Burial sites of ordinary people were marked with terracotta vessels but for the royal graves, freestanding clay heads – like this one – and figures were also included.
Varying widely in size and style, these sculptures combined individualized features with idealized traits, presenting the deceased as unique people who embodied valued principles of beauty, leadership and morality. Figural groups representing musicians and other court attendants were also placed at gravesites, perhaps to serve and comfort the dead ruler in the afterlife.
These forms, and the gravesites in which they were placed, also functioned to manage fertility. Women – who had difficulty conceiving children – visited burial grounds and left offerings in the hope that the spirits of the deceased would intercede on their behalf.
These figural clay sculptures vary enormously in style, ranging from fairly naturalistic and sculpturally rounded forms to examples that are solid, flat, and more dramatically stylized.
On a wooden base. Granite base not included. A stable crack across the face but overall in good condition.