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Between and Mortarboard

UMMA Object Specific Fields

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Commemorative Head

Accession Number

Commemorative Head


Artist Nationality
Akan (culture or style)

Object Creation Date
20th century

Medium & Support

12 in x 7 in x 3 ½ in (30.48 cm x 17.78 cm x 8.89 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of Michael and Phyllis Courlander

Subject matter
To commemorate and honor deceased rulers or prominent individuals, Akan-speaking peoples created terracotta heads such as this one. Called mma, among other names, these commemorative heads were associated with the funerary rites of royalty, as average men and women only had funerary vessels made upon their death. This head could possibly represent the deceased individual, but it could also be a member of the court created to accompany the deceased. Although it is debated if mma were used in the burial itself or in the funeral service, which often took place weeks after the burial, after their use mma were kept in a special area of the cemetery, known as "the place of the pots". Throughout the year people would bring food and drink to honor these spirits, as ancestors could intervene in times of difficulty to assist their family.

References Cited:
Cole, Herbert M. and Doran H. Ross. 1977. The Art of Ghana. Los Angeles: UCLA Museum of Cultural History.
McLeod, Malcolm D. 1981. The Asante. London: British Museum Publications Ltd.

Physical Description
Ceramic head atop a hollow cylinder with a fluted base. The face is round with small eyes, nose, and mouth. A horizontal line cuts across the forehead of the figure. At the top of the head are three sets of two interlocking loops, one of which has almost completely broken off. 

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type

Collection Area

If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form. Keywords
commemorative sculpture
funerary sculpture
royalty (nobility)
symbols of office or status

& Author Notes

All Rights Reserved

On display