(Bangwa, c. 1840–1910)
Overall: 92.1 x 20.3 cm (36 1/4 x 8 in.)
Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1987.62
Ateu Atsa was both a famous and infamous artist! It is said that he enraged a ruler by portraying him realistically rather than in an idealized way, and was chased out of town after the sculpture was revealed.
Adorned with royal attire consisting of a cap, beaded necklace, folded loincloth, and drinking horn, this figure was carved as a commemorative portrait of a historical king or high dignitary. It was kept by a secret association called Lefem, whose members gathered weekly in a sacred space in the forest to discuss matters related to the welfare of the kingdom. Standing in a royal shrine, the figure witnessed sacrifices made to the skulls of the chief’s ancestors. Meant to safeguard the kingdom and protect the fecundity of its inhabitants, it was also exhibited during funerals and royal ceremonies.
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