African designs, £9.99
Height: 32.000 cm
Gift of Major and Mrs H.P.H. Powell-Cotton
AOA Ethno 1934.3-8.27
On loan to
Terracotta water vessel in the shape of a head, by Mbitim
Lurangu, Sudan, 20th century AD
With facial scarification
Water vessels of this kind were devised at the end of the nineteenth century apparently to appeal to European tastes, reflecting the Western obsession with the human form as a privileged subject for artistic expression.
It is often the case in Africa that only males, or post-menopausal females are allowed to make artistic representations of the human form, on pain of loss of natural fertility. Other anthropomorphic pots (that is, in human form) were made in a colonial context where female Mangbetu potters were intermarrying with male Zande potters for the first time. These new pots, then, involved the crossing of quite different cultural views of creativity and gender. This example was made by Mbitim, a male potter.
J.C.H. King (ed.), Human image (London, The British Museum Press, 2000)