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Ocarina in the Form of a Seated Figure

Arts of the Americas

On View: Arts of the Americas Galleries, 5th Floor
This ocarina, a flute-like instrument, depicts a shaman sitting on a double-headed crocodile bench and wearing elaborate garments, a large, feathered headdress, and a bat or crocodile mask. The ceremonial bench and both animals are associated with shamanic power. Crocodiles are powerful symbols that relate to fertility and the underworld because of their water- and land-based habitat. The musician would blow through a hole at the top of the headdress and place his fingers on the holes to control the tones. The Kogi people of Colombia still play ocarinas.

Esta ocarina, un instrumento parecido a una flauta, representa a un chamán sentado en una banca en forma de cocodrilo bicéfalo, vistiendo elaborados ropajes, tocado emplumado, y una máscara de murciélago o cocodrilo. La banca ceremonial y los dos animales están asociados al poder chamánico. Los cocodrilos son símbolos poderosos que se relacionan a la fertilidad y al inframundo por su hábitat tanto acuático como terrestre. El músico soplaba a través del agujero en la parte superior del tocado, y ponía los dedos en los agujeros para controlar los tonos. Los Kogi de Colombia aún tocan ocarinas.

MEDIUM Ceramic
  • Place Made: Colombia
  • DATES 1200
    DIMENSIONS 4 7/8 x 4 1/8 x 1 1/2 in. (12.4 x 10.5 x 3.8 cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of the Americas
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Arts of the Americas Galleries, 5th Floor
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Tessim Zorach
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Tairona. Ocarina in the Form of a Seated Figure, 1200. Ceramic, 4 7/8 x 4 1/8 x 1 1/2 in. (12.4 x 10.5 x 3.8 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Tessim Zorach , 71.128. Creative Commons-BY
    IMAGE overall, 71.128.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Ocarina in the form of a seated figure of a man or bat deity wearing a fan headdress. The area where the figure is resting is bound by two serpents and wind instrument is decorated by incision marks that are filled with white paint. The front of the figure has four air vents; the back has three. Condition: generally good. There is a repair to proper left side of the crown: three areas have been broken off and repaired; also, each side of the upper corner has a small chip.
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