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    Description

    DAN FEAST LADLE
    (LIBERIA, WESTERN AFRICA)

    A large wood feast ladle, wunkermian is used by an honored woman to distribute food in public during village festivals. It is the possession of the wunkerle, "the most hospitable woman of the village," chosen for this position by other village women after competition.

    The wunkerle manages her farm, the food it produces and her household money efficiently. She excels in her kindness and generosity both to fellow residents and to strangers. All her hard work is recognized in her title, which she may hold for years. A wunkerle often has a carver make a large wooden ladle for use in her ceremonial distribution of food. Many such pieces feature female heads on the handles and are said to be portraits of the owner. A helpful spirit residing in the ladle helps the wunkerle retain her title.

    Ideas about the abundance of resources on social and biological levels merge in wunkermian imagery. Its large size underscores the abundance of the food it distributes, thanks to its owner's hard work and generosity. The portrait head handle joined to the scoop body is thought of as a pregnant woman when the ladle is filled with heaped up cooked food or rice. One of the names for the wunkermian is translated as "belly pregnant with rice". A few ladles underscore this human imagery by adding legs to the end of the ladle bowl opposite the handle with its portrait head.

    The present example with its portrait head and elaborate hairstyle exhibits clear signs of wear and polishing from use and handling on the face and neck. The "bandage" across the eyes of the portrait face may indicate a higher state of awareness and internal communion with the resident spirit rather than physical blindness. Dan female masks often indicate spiritual communion by showing white bands painted across slitted eyes. Traces of red pigment on the present ladle hint at power gained through sacrifice.

    Provenance:
    Collected in the 1970s from members of the Srohlay clan of Northeastern Liberia by Charles D. Miller, III, of St. James, New York

    Length: 20 inches


    Condition Report*: Condition report available upon request.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

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    Auction Dates
    May, 2015
    15th Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 441

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