Excavated at Ahinsan, Southern Ashanti. This
figure dates from the 17th to the 18th century
and its form clearly inspired the more recent
akua'ba sculptures of contemporary Ghana.
The famous ethnologist R.S. Rattray, who studied
the Ashanti extensively, recorded the legend, "a
woman potter had become sterile after having
modeled figures for a pottery shrine." The
ceremonial and funeral pottery was therefore
made by men.
Figurines of heads, 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.