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Shabti of Senkamanisken

Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art

Both of these works, separated by many centuries, use the human body as a platform for expressing and displaying script.

Shabtis are funerary figures intended to do the agricultural work the gods might require of the deceased, represented here holding hoes. The hieroglyphic inscription on this figure is a spell from the Book of the Dead, asking the shabti to do the Nubian king Senkamanisken’s work for him in the afterlife.

Owusu-Ankomah's paintings depict a spiritual world occupied by people and symbols. The male figure in this work is covered by, and moves within, Akan adinkra symbols from the artist's native Ghana, each of which graphically represents a particular concept or proverb. Looking Back Into the Future depicts a nude man with his head turned backward, in a pose associated with the Akan proverbial concept of sankofa ("one must know the past to know the future").

You can see a contemporary version of adinkra cloth among the "touch" textiles around the corner.
MEDIUM Steatite
  • Place Excavated: Nuri, Sudan (ancient Nubia)
  • DATES 643–623 B.C.E.
    DYNASTY Dynasty 26
    PERIOD Napatan Period
    DIMENSIONS 8 9/16 x 2 11/16 x depth at base 1 15/16 in. (21.7 x 6.9 x 5 cm)  (show scale)
    CREDIT LINE By exchange
    PROVENANCE Pyramid III, Nuri necropolis, Napata, Nubia (modern Sudan); before 1939, excavated by George Andrew Reisner for the MFA, Boston, MA; 1939, purchased from the MFA, Boston by the Brooklyn Museum, by exchange.
    Provenance FAQ
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Mottled gray limestone (?) ushabti of Senkaman-seken (633-613 BC). The figure is freestanding with royal headdress with two uraeus, hands opposite in an unnatural position bearing a whip and a crook. No cords indicated. Inscription divided into six horizontal registers. Workmanship excellent. Peculiar markings on the base (possibly those of a craftsman). Condition: Perfect excepting base of beard is broken.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Nubian. Shabti of Senkamanisken, 643–623 B.C.E. Steatite, 8 9/16 x 2 11/16 x depth at base 1 15/16 in. (21.7 x 6.9 x 5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, By exchange, 39.5. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 39.5_edited_SL3.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 39.5_edited_SL3.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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