- Label Text
- In Igbo communities, offerings of kola nuts and white chalk have ritual power, function as sacrifices and play a critical role as offerings of hospitality that precede both social and ritual undertakings. Their importance is reflected in the creation of beautifully carved lidded bowls and dishes. Art historians Herbert M. Cole and Chike C. Aniakor note that the Igbo associate chalk (nzu) with “whiteness, purity, beauty, and sanctity” (1984: 62). Accordingly, chalk is left on shrines as offerings and is applied to the body as part of ceremonies and healing rituals.
- Chalk dishes (okwa nzu) are carved in a rectangular shape or, more commonly, as an elaborately carved spoon-shaped container with a shallow rounded bowl and an anthropomorphic handle that typically takes the shape of a female head, as in this example. While it is possible that the heads and, more rarely, full figures on the handle suggest an ancestral presence, scholars knowledgeable about Igbo arts suggest that the motifs serve a decorative function and reflect the refined taste and prestige of those who own such beautifully realized and functional containers.
- Wood spoon-shaped container with a shallow, round bowl covered with traces of white pigment. The thick handle terminates in a carved human face with tri-lobed coiffure. The figural handle is encircled with four copper alloy rings; the top ring loops up above the head. Much of the surface has a heavy application of white pigment.
- Argiles, 1979
- Merton D. Simpson, 1986 to 2013
- Exhibition History
- African Mosaic: Selections from the Permanent Collection, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., November 19, 2013-ongoing
- Data Source
- National Museum of African Art
- Igbo artist
- Mid-20th century
- Credit Line
- Gift of Merton D. Simpson
- Wood, copper alloy, pigment
- Figure: 36.8 x 14.1 x 7 cm (14 1/2 x 5 9/16 x 2 3/4 in.) Mounted: 41 x 14.1 x 8.3 cm (16 1/8 x 5 9/16 x 3 1/4 in.)