Monday, August 25, 2014

Côte d'Ivoire/Liberia; Dan peoples

Wakemia (ladle)

H. 64.8 x W. 17.8 x D. 11.4 cm

The Dan carve large spoons called wakemiaor wunkirmian, "spoon associated with feasts," that are carried by the most hospitable woman (wakede, called wunkirle in other reports) in a village neighborhood. 

"Awakede must be successful and industrious, and well accomplished in farming. She is the woman in her household who is responsible for the administration of food resources for the entire extended family. She must be of a generous and liberal disposition, a woman who gladly offers her hospitality to anyone at any time. She must provide food and lodging for guests; she must invite travelling musicians or other groups who are passing through the village to eat in her home... 

In order to be able to achieve all this, the wakede, not surprisingly, needs the help of a spirit which incarnates as her large spoon -- just as [Dan] mask spirits are incarnated in face masks. 

The spoon-spirits are believed to animate the wakemia to the extent that it may move itself without human assistance" (Fischer 1984:124). 

In many cases the handles of these spoons are carved to represent the owner of the spoon at the height of her physical beauty and fertility, and the bowl of the ladle takes the place of her belly,"pregnant with rice." 

The wakededances through the neighborhood giving out bowls of rice or small coins to those she meets. 

Professor Christopher D. Roy, School of Art and Art History, University of Iowa