X86.4495 Pot with the head of a bushcow

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Pot with the head of a bushcow
Mumuye peoples
Earthenware, kaolin, ocher
Fowler Museum at UCLA. Gift of Arnold Rubin. X86.4495
Collected by Arnold Rubin, Nigeria, 1970


Among the Mumuye, as elsewhere in the Middle Benue, making pottery typically was a woman’s profession. At initiation and at death, large jars, similar in size to beer pots, were commissioned for men. They were surmounted by bushcow heads, which are nearly identical in form to the Vaa-Bong masks. The identification between a man and his pot had two aspects: only when he was initiated and allowed to wear the masquerade, was a man permitted to have such a pot; and after he died, this pot, or another made for the purpose, was taken from his house by Vaa-Bong masqueraders to a place outside the village and shattered, thereby severing their relationship with him as a fellow initiate. Such memorial rites were held annually for all those who died during the prior year.

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