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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Dakakari : Dakakiri Style Funerary Sculpture
Dakakiri Style Funerary Sculpture - PF.1503B (LSO)
Origin: Northwestern Nigeria
Circa: 18 th Century AD to 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 27" (68.6cm) high x 11.5" (29.2cm) wide
Collection: African Art
Medium: Terracotta

Location: United States
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The Dakakiri peoples of NW Nigeria are a little- studied group that are primarily known for their unusual funerary traditions. The standard practice was to bury individuals with a range of plain pottery for their use in the afterlife. However, it is the burials of the higher status individuals from the tribe, including their chiefs and their retinue, that give rise to the production of the Dakakiri’s major contribution to the corpus of African art history. Rather than simple interments, prestige individuals are buried in stone-lined shaft tombs with prominent superstructures that serve to mark the family grave and to remind the living of their ancestors. Skilled potters are commissioned to create sculptures of the deceased, which are placed within the superstructure and venerated annually with libations of maize flour or beer that are poured over them in memory of the deceased. The trade was usually kept within families; experience was all-important – the most prestigious potters were often post-menopausal women. Every person who dies in an elite family has another piece – or pieces – dedicated to them and placed within the superstructure over time, these collections can build up considerably, marking the development of the family throughout generations.

The current piece is clearly modelled upon a man of some distinction, clad in what is clearly non-utilitarian – and therefore probably ceremonial – garb, in a triumphal pose atop a rounded plain ceramic base. The manner in which the piece is modelled probably reflects the fact that it was meant to be viewed from above – hence the figure’s upturned face and the high quality of the detailing on its upper half. The face and physique are those of a well-nourished individual, with the usual implications for his status. The eyes are protuberant, with a long trilobate nose, and a wide-open mouth. The hair is depicted as a series of raised bumps across the top of the forehead (and along the sagittal plane), and the rounded cheeks are marked with scarifications running from beneath the eye to the jawline. The lower limbs are semi-clad in what appear to be European-style short trousers, while the torso is loosely wrapped in what appears to be a long cloth roll almost resembling a harness that is crossed across the chest and back and gathered at the waist. The manner in which the relief is modelled makes it likely that further complexity was originally depicted, but that this was heightened with colour that has not survived. There is a large diademic form in the lower aspect of the chest, which is linked in some way to the harness-like clothing. The arms are non- naturalistic, the hands placed upon the chest. The legs are curved, and also non-naturalistic, running down to feet depicted with very clearly marked and elongated toes. The whole figure is standing atop a orb decorated lightly with incised markings. The figure is formed from a light-coloured ceramic with an even firing distribution, and is well conceived, dramatically modelled and well preserved.

Dakakiri pieces are rarely seen, and comparatively little is known about the groups from which they come. This, therefore, constitutes an opportunity for the discerning collector to obtain a true rarity. - (PF.1503B (LSO))


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