Over the past twenty to thirty years a slow trickle of terracotta vessels from the Azande region, similar in form to this example, have emerged into the market.
The body of this vessel exhibits an unusual form with a circular 'spout' supported by six large, bulbous phallic-like chambers. Inside the central 'spout', each chamber has an opening which was likely made so that long reed straws could be placed enabling the contents of each container to be consumed. The drinking ritual was likely done during important ceremonies and meetings of higher ranked members of the society. The surface of the vessel exhibits a dark patina, due to the mixture of Acrisol (acidic soil) or the use of other rare volcanic materials, this combination gave the vessel more value and importance.
Whilst the specific functional use of such a vessel is not known, research on similar vessels undertaken by Olisa Agulue has theorised that this unusual form took on symbolic importance during intertribal solidarity ceremonies. According to Agulue's formal and functional analysis of an very similar eight-chambered ceremonial vessel from this region, the object would play a role in the ritualistic uniting of tribes. In Agulue's words: 'At these gatherings each tribal leader would bring an intoxicant of his own making, which would be deposited into one of the eight chambers. Each tribal leader would then drink from the cup.' As Agulue theorised, 'when tilting the vessel back in consumption, the initially separate liquids mixed together', symbolically bringing the tribes together.
To read the full extract of Agulue's very interesting research on a similar Azande vessel, refer to the link below under 'Reference'.
Estimated Period: First Half of 20th Century
Ex Pierre Dartevelle, Brussels
Alisa Agulue, 'Ritual Vessels and Their Myths' Paprika! Yale School of Architecture & Yale School of Art
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