By Victoria Rovine
University of Florida (formerly University of Iowa)

Mali; Bamana artist



H. 50.8 cm (20 in)

University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, Gift of Keith Achepohl, 1994.69

Hospitality and generosity are much-admired qualities among the Bamana, as in many African cultures. Pots like this one may be viewed as symbols of those qualities, for they are made to contain a precious and sometimes scarce liquid that is given freely to strangers and friends alike—water. On entering a family's compound, travelers, neighbors, and family members are all greeted with a cup of water to quench their thirst in the hot, dusty climate of the west African savanna. This water is taken from the family's water storage pot, which is placed in a shady part of the yard. This pot is decorated with elegant ridges (which might also have served as finger holds when the pot was lifted) and with raised designs, probably abstractions of the human form.