Skip Navigation

Ceremonial Hoe

Arts of Africa

Dan women form cooperative work groups to plant their rice farms. They use short-handled hoes for their labor. Each community chooses the leader of the work group based on her reputation for energy and leadership. As a symbol of her role as an important community leader, she carries a hoe carved with a figurative handle on those public occasions in which she wishes to show her status.

These hoes are examples of how utilitarian items may be embellished and elaborated to take on symbolic value. The heads on the handles may have been carved as portraits of the owners, or they may represent the artist's conception of an ideal face.

MEDIUM Wood, iron
  • Place Made: Garplay, Liberia
  • DATES 20th century
    DIMENSIONS 14 1/8 x 2 1/4 x 4 1/16 in. (35.9 x 5.7 x 10.3 cm)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Brian S. Leyden
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Ceremonial hoe with cylindrical handle of wood, topped by human head with stylized face, wearing coiffure divided into 2 sections. Four metal teeth are set into the mouth. The bottom of the handle widens into bifurcated form, into which is attached the rounded metal hoe. Incised rings below neck and just above widened bottom section. Condition: One long crack down back of handle; small chips and nick in wood; metal hoe worn and patinated.
    Not every record you will find here is complete. More information is available for some works than for others, and some entries have been updated more recently. Records are frequently reviewed and revised, and we welcome any additional information you might have.