Photographs © Tim Hamill
19th C. Shrine Object
13" x 20.5"
Among the Akan a well-carved stool such as this early example serves spiritual purposes in addition to its original purpose as a well-designed seat to sit upon. Among the Akan stools take their general identifying name 'Dwa or Dua' meaning literally carved from the wood. Stools start out as light colored wood taken from the tree identified by the Akan as 'osese' that through time and use takes on a burnished and well-worn honey-colored hue. However this old stool is so covered with the remains of white pigment over its surface that at times it fills in the details of the carving. Among the Akans of Ghana the color white is important for it conveys a number of ideas addressing spirituality and the ancestors. Known as 'Hyire', it was in the past made from clay mixed with bird lime that is now replaced by the use of various forms of white powder. Priests and priestesses during rituals associated with their shrine will cover their bodies in white powder to celebrate the spirit of the local shrine and will often throw powder into the crowd or into the air. Stools and often sculpted figures placed in shrines will also be covered with white clay to indicate their spirituality. This stool most likely came from a shrine where it served as the 'seat' of the shrine spirit known as an 'Obosom' where it received offerings of white clay or powder that gives it its white coloring. It is most likely not an ancestor's stool in that ancestral stools were 'blackened' to honor the ancestor with a mixture of soot, blood and other dark materials. This finely carved stool falls into a class of stool identified as 'Pantu Dwa' and despite the wear of one surface where it had lain on its side in the shrine the details and openwork carving make this a classic example of an Akan stool.
Dr. Daniel Mato
Professor Emeritus of Art History
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