X2008.32.3 Vessel with rainmaking wands

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Vessel with rainmaking wands
Mumuye or Chamba peoples (?)
Mid-20th century
Ceramic and iron
Fowler Museum at UCLA; Museum Purchase. X2008.32.3


Like others in the Middle Benue, Mumuye rainmakers were regarded with awe. They brought rains on time each year to assure the fertility of crops. Among their ritual instruments were forged iron wands in distinctive zigzag form, which represented a flash of lightning or the sudden strike of a snake, both harbingers of thunder and rain. The two “snakes” were conceived as a male-female pair—the longer one the male. Such regalia were kept in the ground inside shrines where offerings could be made. These wands could take elaborate forms, with several pointed iron elements bundled in clusters or inserted into small ceramic vessels.

Source: Gallery Wall Text, Central Nigeria Unmasked: Arts of the Benue River Valley, 2011