Head On A Stand

Bidyogo peoples

Bissagos Island

Head on a Stand, possibly 19th century (Mato, 1973)

  • On View

Wood with metal eyes

Dimensions: 19 × 9 1/2 in. (48.3 × 24.1 cm)

Gift of Justice and Mrs. G. Mennen Williams, 1973.5

In Bidyogo oral history the people were told to carve a statue in honor of a god that would be present at religious ceremonies, and this is the origin of the spiritual practice of carving figures in wood. These statues called iran act as dwelling places for the souls of deceased ancestors. In Bidyogo tradition only well-respected elders become ancestors. The high-top hat this figure wears, which was obtained through trade with European countries, represents this level of prestige.

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