Thursday, January 13, 2011

Revisiting African Art at the University of Missouri

A while back, Edward Merrin presented the University of Missouri's own Museum of Art & Archeology with an African art of the 1900s. While not particularly ancient, it was among an exhibition of African art at the university's museum, which presented quite a few objects of African art. Art to us, that is, as these objects (e.g. masks, figurines, headwear) were used in everyday life. Or in the case of Edward Merrin's gift to the institution, they were most often used as funerary figurines.

Wooden pounders by gift
of Edward Merrin. Credit:
MAA, University of Missouri.
The pair of figures, known as the "Children of Poro", originate with the Senufo people — in this case, the modern-day Côte d'Ivoire. A secret society of people, the Poro used deble like these in various funerary ceremonies, and simply placed them alongside the deceased. In fact, this particular pair is special, and rare, known as pombibele, it depicts the perfect unison of model citizens — who follow tradition and pay homage to the dead.

The pombibele were used to strike the ground at the funerals of their elders — hence the figurines are also called 'pounders'. Similar to the traditions of ancient Egypt, this was done to lubricate the passage of one's spirit into the afterlife, known as the "village of the dead". Although such 'pounding' also provided an accompaniment for the ritual African music and dancers.

You may have noticed that the Edward Merrin blog's domain has changed to, so to all our referrers, we say thank you, and feel free to update your links (but even if you don't, they'll automatically be redirected from

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