Death

By Monica Demott
(formerly University of Iowa)

Nigeria and Cameroon; Mambila peoples

Tadep (ancestor figure)

Wood, traces of pigment

H. 38.1 cm (15”)

The University of Iowa Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection, X1986.339

For all peoples, in all cultures, death is the cessation of the body's vital processes.  But death is both an ending and a beginning.  For most African peoples, death is also the commencement of the new life of an ancestor.  Peoples all over the world create images of deceased ancestors, whether they take the form of wooden sculpture or photographs in a grandparent’s photo album.  This small ancestor figure from Mambila peoples of northern Nigeria was called tadep and was placed, along with several other figures, in a net strung across the front of a storage house for ritual objects.