Reintegration / Ancestors

By Monica Demott
(formerly University of Iowa)

Guinea-Bissau; Bidyogo artist

Female ancestor figure


H. 48.9 cm (19 ¼”)

University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection of African Art, X1986.228

Not everyone who dies becomes an ancestor.  In some societies, deceased infants, childless individuals and those who have not contributed in a significant way to the community are not considered ancestors and their deaths are given a minimum of attention.  Commemoration and veneration of ancestors takes a variety of forms: public performances, carved wooden figures, and the preservation of skeletal remains.  This figure of a female ancestress from Bidyogo peoples in Guinea-Bissau was consulted through a diviner for advice of many kinds, including the choice of a chief, the use of land, and healing of affliction.