About This Artwork

Ewe or Fon
Vicinity of Kpando, Ghana

Shrine Vessel, Early/mid–20th century

58.4 x 35.6 x 42.6 cm (23 x 14 x 16 3/4 in.)

Atlan Ceramic Club Endowment, 2003.76

The imaginative, asymmetrical form of this shrine vessel reveals the remarkable skill of the woman who made it. The piece’s semispherical foot, rounded body, plump neck, wide spout, arching handle, and openwork arcade around the shoulders are balanced in a bold, confident manner. Human arms lie across the bell of the vessel and when in view transform it into a voluptuous standing figure. Appliquéd images of a chameleon, crocodile, fish, and snake suggest connections with magical, transcendent beings. The object was collected together with several other similarly styled pots and is believed to come from in or near the town of Kpando, in far east-central Ghana, near the Togo border. According to one report, elderly women in the region have stated that such pots are no longer made or used, but were once placed on altars and were associated with very specific symbolic meanings. The Kpando region is home to people of Ewe descent as well as to later immigrants from the Akan-speaking south. The vessel displays stylistic affinities to both pottery traditions, evoking the Ewe in its stacked forms and the Akan in its low-relief imagery.

—Entry, For Hearth and Altar, African Ceramics from the Keith Achepohl Collection (2005), pp. 102-103.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Art Institute of Chicago, For Hearth and Altar: African Ceramics from the Keith Achepohl Collection, Dec. 3, 2005–Feb. 20, 2006, cat. 54.

Publication History

Kathleen Bickford Berzock, For Hearth and Altar: African Ceramics from the Keith Achepohl Collection (The Art Institute and Yale University Press, 2005), pp. 102-103.

Ownership History

Unnamed owner, Togo and France, by 2003; sold to David Spetka, Niger Bend Gallery, Saratoga, N.Y., by 2003; sold to Douglas Dawson Gallery, Chicago, Ill., by 2003; sold to the Art Institute, 2003.

Interpretive Resources

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