West Africa, Ivory Coast or Liberia, Dan, ca. late 19th to early 20th century CE. A skillfully hand-carved wooden feast spoon or ceremonial ladle (called a wakemia or wunkirmian meaning "spoon associated with feasts"), with a large concave scoop representing the head of a human figure, a handle representing the figure's torso with a 'frilled' neckpiece, a protruding abdomen with belly button, a round buttocks, twin legs with bent knees, and feet with incised toes. Dan artisans, when crafting these objects, looked to the natural world for inspiration, and then would go beyond that to create an abstract rendering. The ownership of these ladles showed the prestige of individual women in the society, symbolic of their generosity. A fabulous example with dark brown, lustrous rich patina. Size: 20.5" H (52.1 cm); 21.5" H (54.6 cm) on included custom stand.
According to Jean-Baptiste Bacquart, "Large anthropomorphic spoons were coveted prizes given to the most hospitable village women." (Bacquart, "The Tribal Arts of Africa", New York: Thames & Hudson, 1998 & 2000, p. 38)
Provenance: private Omer Claiborne collection, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA; acquired over the last 40 years
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