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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.
CULTURE Konso artist
MEDIUM Wood, metal
DATES 19th century
DIMENSIONS 52 1/2 x 6 1/2 x 3 1/4 in. (133.4 x 16.5 x 8.3 cm)  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
CREDIT LINE Gift of Serge and Jodie Becker-Patterson
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Konso artist. Memorial stela (waakaa or waga), 19th century. Wood, metal, 52 1/2 x 6 1/2 x 3 1/4 in. (133.4 x 16.5 x 8.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Serge and Jodie Becker-Patterson, 2000.94.4. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2000.94.4_edited.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 2000.94.4_edited.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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