Excavated at Ahinsan, in the southern region of
Ghana inhabited by the Asante tribe (also spelled
Ashanti), this terracotta head dates from the
17th to the 18th century.
The famous ethnologist R. S. Rattray, who
studied the Asante extensively, recorded the
legend, “a woman potter had become sterile after
having modeled figures for a pottery shrine.”
The ceremonial and funerary pottery was
therefore made by men.
Busts, such as this one, were attached to the lids
of the family pottery funerary shrines reserved
for the worship of the female principal “Abusua.”
These sculptures were discovered partially
buried, abandoned in ancient places of worship
outside the village. According to inhabitants,
they are “ancestor portraits.” Terracotta statuary
seems to have been eclipsed by the
extraordinary development of goldsmith work.
In turn, these works in gold became the
repositories of the supernatural forces of the
deceased, and the terracotta portraits laid
forgotten until this century.