The majority of Cham-Mwana vessels were made to protect children and cure their diseases. Mothers could keep several in their rooms to protect more than one child at a time.
General information on healing vessels:
Discarded across the rocky terrain after their use, Cham-Mwana vessels record the incidence of disease. Many abandoned examples, rendered dangerous after diseases were transferred into them, were field collected by British colonial officers beginning in the 1950s, often with notations as to their names and associated illnesses. Many others have been subsequently collected. The forms of most have some human reference and describe the symptoms or aspects of particular diseases they were intended to cure. For example, the sculptural vessels shown here were made to protect an unborn fetus, cure backaches, or end vomiting. Wide-open mouths offer easy and direct access for the transferred spirits.
Source: Gallery text, Central Nigeria Unmasked: Arts of the Benue River Valley, 2011.
See also: Marla C. Berns, World Arts, Local Lives: The Collections of the Fowler Museum at UCLA. Fowler Museum, Los Angeles, 2014.