By William Dewey
Pennsylvania State University (formerly University of Iowa)

Côte d’Ivoire; Anyi artist

Mma (funerary head)

Fired clay

H. 19.05 cm (7.5")

University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection of African Art, X1986.580

Among the Anyi people of southern Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana funerary heads are known as mma. Roy explains, “A female potter who had known the deceased modeled the figure and then stained it black and dressed it the day before the final funeral rites. The spirit of the deceased was invited to occupy the mma, and then it was deposited, with many older figures, in a special clearing in the mmasso (forest). The figure was a concrete means of remembering the dead, a resting place for his soul. The figures could also encourage fertility in sterile women who tended the forest clearing and offered yam and manioc” (1992: 58 citing Amon d’Aby 1960 and Vogel 1981). One of the most interesting features of this head are the patterns on the cheeks and forehead, painted on with gold dust, one of the principal sources of wealth in the region.