240617 - Anthropomorphic Ceremonial Terracotta Vessel Igbo Izzi people - Nigeria


Very old Anthropomorphic Ceremonial or medical Terracotta Izzi Vessel from the Igbo people of Nigeria.

Size : 17 cm x 15 cm x 12 cm. used remains are present in this vessel.

This Izzi pot is from the end of the 19th century and purchased in my private collection in 1998, with a certificate of authenticity.

Old Anthropomorphic or Zoomorphic Ceremonial or Medical Terracotta Vessel Igbo Izzi people of Nigeria

appears to have been used on fire as the base is blackened

Beautifully shaped as decoration or an animal or demon with incised and raised decoration.

Ceramic works from Africa can be loosely divided into two categories: terra cotta figurative art and earthenware vessels. In opposition to figurative art, ceramic vessels can be broken down into two sub-categories: utilitarian and ceremonial wares. It is possible to find examples that appear to combine the two major categories when encountering figurative vessels; yet, upon examination figurative vessels were almost always used in ceremonial contexts.

The association between pottery and ritual may not seem evident at first. To ancient people, the transformation of raw soft clay to hardened brittle pottery in a pit of fire must have appeared nothing short of magical. The collection of clay itself was also wrapped in ritual due to the close connection between humanity and nature. Even the firing process was considered sacred and often involved offerings to ensure its success. In many respects, the transformation from clay to fired ceramics was a form of alchemy, and in this regard was related to metal smithing. In many African societies, both potters and metal smiths were elevated in status because of their abilities to create magical objects imbued with all sorts of powers. It comes as no surprise that some of the earliest figurative pottery vessels were found in elaborate burial sites...

Anthropomorphic and figurative vessels occupy a unique place in African art. They display the balance between various realms – the utilitarian and ceremonial, secular and religious, and material and spiritual. The artistic ability and skill of the potters makes one want to call them sculptors; however, their creations are distinctly separated from figurative terra cotta sculpture by function and use. Half a world away from where they were created, African figurative ceramic vessels still display dignity, esteem and personality. Today, they are valued by collectors for their individuality, beauty, diversity, rarity and extraordinary design – qualities that fill these artworks to the brim.

Living mainly in the forested areas of south-west Nigeria, on both sides of the Niger River the Igbo number some ten million individuals. Mainly farmers and merchants, they also hunt and fish. They are subdivided into thirty-three subgroups and are spread out among about two hundred villages scattered through the thick forest or semifertile marshland. Only on the northern and western edges of the area, under influence from Igala and Benin, are hereditary rulers found. The heads of families form the council of elders, which shares its power with numerous secret societies. These societies exercise great political and social influence. They are highly hierarchical, their members passing from one level to the next. There is strong social pressure toward individual distinction, and men can move upward through successive grades by demonstrating their achievements and their generosity.