Terracotta water vessel in the shape of a head, by Mbitim


British Museum

British Museum

Water vessels of this kind were devised at the end of the nineteenth century apparently to appeal to European tastes, reflecting the Western obsession with the human form as a privileged subject for artistic expression.It is often the case in Africa that only males, or post-menopausal females are allowed to make artistic representations of the human form, on pain of loss of natural fertility. Other anthropomorphic pots (that is, in human form) were made in a colonial context where female Mangbetu potters were intermarrying with male Zande potters for the first time. These new pots, then, involved the crossing of quite different cultural views of creativity and gender. This example was made by Mbitim, a male potter.

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  • Title: Terracotta water vessel in the shape of a head, by Mbitim
  • Date Created: 1900/1950
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 31.00cm; Diameter: 15.00cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: impressed
  • Registration number: Af1934,0308.27
  • Production place: Made in South Sudan
  • Place: Found/Acquired Lurangu
  • Peoples: Made by Azande
  • Other information: Cultural rights may apply.
  • Material: pottery
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Donated by Powell-Cotton, Percy Horace Gordon. Donated by Powell-Cotton, Hannah