Beautifully sculpted figurative ceramic vessel.
Longuda / Cham-Mwana, Nigeria
9” x 9” x 20” tall
The Longuda are a small ethnic group in eastern Nigeria living on the eastern banks of the Benue River beyond the mouth of the Gongola River. Their immediate neighbors are the Cham and the Mwana, who live to the west and speak the same language. In common with their neighbors the Waja and Longuda, they traditionally fabricated figurative terracotta vessels for the specific purposes of divining, protection of children (born and unborn) and the treatment of diseases in people and livestock.
These pseudo vessels, known as itinate among the Cham-Mwana and kwandalowa among the Longuda, were made exclusively by men (in contrast with household pottery, which was the singular domain of women). Today only a few old people are familiar with the art of making them and the use to which they were put, while the younger generation, mostly educated in missions, is often not even aware of their existence. Deciphering their precise purpose without the aid of a Cham-Mwana initiate is difficult if not impossible. However, this large and beautifully detailed specimen appears to be a Chandu – a female pot used by a diviner as an oracle and household guardian. The figure wears prominent ear plugs in each ear, one in her upper lip and another in her lower lip (Personal communication Amyas Naegele, 2009; Shaedler, Earth and Ore, 1997).
Vessels called kwandalowa by the Longuda and itinate by the Cham and Mwana were used for divination rituals and as protection from malevolent spirits. These highly valued vessels were also believed to absorb and contain illnesses. Consequently, they were highly regarded as powerful healing objects.