Memorial stela (waakaa or waga)
Arts of Africa
Stelae (waaka or waaga in the Konso language) memorialize specific male Konso ancestors. Waaka emphasize an ancestor’s individual deeds, as well as his connection to shared experiences and values. They appear on outdoor platforms with other sculptures. Waaka only memorialize xhe’tallitta (heroes), certain religious dignitaries, or warrior-hunters. The man at center wears a warrior’s bracelets and stacked necklaces. His hand rests on his phallus, unlike figures of castrated, defeated warriors. Representing a wife and mother, the jewelry-adorned woman at left would stand alongside him. As the wooden posts decay outdoors, the deceased joins the larger ancestral community. In contrast, the Huastec sculpture at right was carved in stone to be permanent. This ongoing Konso memorial practice has precedents dating back as far as the eleventh or thirteenth century.
19th century or earlier
39 1/4 x 4 1/4 x 4 1/4 in. (99.7 x 10.8 x 10.8 cm) (show scale)
Gift of Serge and Jodie Becker-Patterson
Standing female figure with pendulous breasts, arms held rigidly to sides. Figure has domed coiffure with curvilinear design, small sunken eyes, two inset teeth, a carved multi-strand necklace, and carved armbands. There are areas of red-ochre pigment, a finely worn surface, and old patina.
Condition: Overall good; heavily eroded from weathering.
This item is not on view
Konso artist. Memorial stela (waakaa or waga), 19th century or earlier. Wood, 39 1/4 x 4 1/4 x 4 1/4 in. (99.7 x 10.8 x 10.8 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Serge and Jodie Becker-Patterson
, 1998.124.1. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 1998.124.1_edited_SL3.jpg)
overall, 1998.124.1_edited_SL3.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2014
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