Standing together, facing the viewer, six small vessels form a harmonious group. They share a common scale and character, though each is unique. No figure dominates and none is subordinate. The exception is the larger vessel on the left, its two terra-cotta heads a pair of wise elders, looking on with serene countenance and the wisdom of experience. The mood is one of democracy and equality, of kind neighbors in a peaceful village, embellished by a gently flowing river of beads.
The tableau features terra-cotta vessels crafted by the Teke People of the Congo. Small bottles with large handles, such as these, are prevalent throughout Central Africa and are designed to hold oil, water, beer or palm wine. They are additionally employed to honor one’s ancestors during rituals or to be placed on appropriate shrines. “Teke potters usually use a mold to build the lower part of a vessel and sometimes make closed forms by joining two such pieces together. They then add coils to create the neck”. The larger vessel with two human faces on the far left is Zulu, from Southern Africa. The scene is completed by two glass bead necklaces, also of African origin.
REFERENCES: 1- The Art Institute of Chicago Catalog. 2021. 2- https://www.artic.edu/artworks/185685/bottle