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Spoon - Wood - Wakemia - Dan - Liberia

Spoon - Wood - Wakemia - Dan - Liberia

PROVENANCE: -Private Belgian collection, early 70 's.

HEIGHT: H = 41 cm , 44 cm on metal stand ( included in your package ).

The Dan Tribe is from Liberia near Sierra Leone in Africa.

Yaëlle Biro mentions on The Met website, Artists in Dan communities of Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire have mastered the art of carving impressive wooden ladles that are virtuoso works of sculpture. These ceremonial ladles, known as wunkirmian or wakemia (which translates as "spoon associated with feasts") are badges of prestige acknowledging an individual woman for her incomparable generosity. . they are not so much utilitarian objects rather than symbols of status and the bearer of spiritual powers...

Emblematic of honor and status, wunkirmian are the possession of the wunkirle or wakede, "at feasts acting woman." A title of great distinction, it is given to the most hospitable woman of a village quarter. German art historian Hans Himmelheber, together with Wowoa Tame-Tabmen, has best described the role of the wunkirle in an article dedicated to the topic (Himmelheber and Tabmen 1965). One woman in each village quarter is honored with the title of wunkirle. When a wunkirle becomes old she chooses her successor from among the young women of her quarter (Johnson 1987, 17) and passes down her wunkirmian. With the honor comes a lot of responsibility— the wunkirle must be of a generous disposition, gladly offering her hospitality to anyone at any time, organizing and providing for important meals, and feeding travelers. In order to be able to afford this largess, the wunkirle must be successful and industrious, and a well accomplished farmer.

In addition to being emblems of honor, wunkirmian also hold spiritual power (Himmelheber and Tabmen 1965, 177). They are a Dan woman's chief liaison with the power of the spirit world and a symbol of that connection. In the words of a wunkirle, Doa, the ladles contain "all the power and fame of the wunkirle" (Johnson 1987, 19). ..

In 1926, a young Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966) reinterpreted the Dan equation between a woman’s womb and the bowl of a spoon in his sculpture Spoon Woman (Femme Cuillère). Like many artists of his generation, he was familiar with and admired the bold reinterpretations of the human body imagined and expressed by artists from West and Central Africa that had begun to fill the Parisian artists’ ateliers during the first decade of the 20th century. In this life-size bronze sculpture, considered among his earliest mature works, the artist uses the premise established by Dan carvers as a point of departure, but pushes the form further towards geometric abstraction.



Fischer, E. and H. Himmelheber. 1991. "Spoons of the Dan (Liberia/Ivory Coast)." Looking-Serving-Eating-Emblems of Abundance. Homberger, L., ed. Zurich: Museum Rietberg.

Himmelheber, H. and Wowoa Tame-Tabmen. "Wunkirle, die gastlichste Frau." In Festschrift Alfred Bühler, ed. Carl M. Schmitz. Basel: Pharos Verlag, 1965, pp. 171-181.

All our exclusive Art may be viewed or picked up in David Norden's Buy African Antiques Shop in Antwerp, or by appointment.

David Norden guarantees the authenticity of his objects, you will get a written description inside the package.

David Norden is a third generation antique dealers, dealing in African Art in Antwerp-Belgium since 1992.

Object Spoon
Indigenous object name Wakemia
Ethnic group/ culture Dan
Region/ country Liberia
Material Wood
Period 2nd half 20th century
Condition Excellent condition, barely used with minimal signs of wear
Sold with stand Yes
Dimensions 41×11×4 cm
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