This head is part of a longstanding tradition among the Akan, who have made terracotta heads and figures at least as early as the seventeenth century as part of the formal funerals of Akan royals. Alhough specific practices vary, these funerals, which are separate from burial of the body and may take place as late as two years after it, involve elaborate feasts and displays of the sculpture, culminating in the ceramic pieces being deposited in a “place of the posts, ” located near town, but usually not at the actual grave site. Such sculptures are still being made in some parts of Akan territory, but the tranquil expression, rounded forms, incised eyebrows, and intricately depicted hairstyle relate this head to those excavated by James Bellis at Twifo Heman, a town where the tradition died before the second half of the nineteenth century.
Akan peoples (Twifo Heman style), Ghana
17th –19th century
H. 8 ¼ in. (21.0 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 85.24