Container for Valuables

A work made of blackened terracotta and slip.

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  • A work made of blackened terracotta and slip.


Early/mid–20th century


Gur-speaking peoples, possibly Nuna
Burkina Faso
Northern Africa and the Sahel

About this artwork

Among the Gur-speaking peoples, potters use the direct pull method, pushing into a lump of clay to form the pot’s base and pulling upward while rotating the mass to form the walls. They then scrape the clay to consolidate it and to perfect the form. Elegant, round-bodied containers such as these, which feature a lid cut seamlessly from the body and a flared topknot that acts as a handle, are made by many Gur-speaking peoples and are intended to hold valuables.

This robust vessel has two tiers that are each encircled at midpoint by a series of three ridges. A topknot handle and a cutaway lid crown the upper tier, and this, along with the upper half of the lower tier, is smoothly burnished and stained with a red slip that has partially blackened. In contrast, the bottom half of the lower tier was consolidated with a roulette or corncob, giving it a textured surface. According to Douglas Dawson, the Nuna specialize in these two-tiered forms.

While the valuables stored within such containers may include money and jewelry, their worth may also be defined more esoterically. For example, clans, lineages, and individuals possess objects that are treasured for their role in forging a connection with the vital forces of nature. According to scholar Christopher Roy, these may include “animal skulls and tails, rings, amulets, bracelets, stools, bottles, and anthropomorphic figures in clay and wood.” [See also 2005.232].

—Revised from Kathleen Bickford Berzock, For Hearth and Altar, African Ceramics from the Keith Achepohl Collection (2005), pp. 76-77.

Currently Off View

Arts of Africa




Container for Valuables


Burkina Faso




Blackened terracotta and slip


47.6 × 34.3 cm (18 3/4 × 13 1/2 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Keith Achepohl

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email .


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