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In My Time of DyingA History of Death and the Dead in West Africa$
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John Parker

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780691193151

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691193151.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM PRINCETON SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.princeton.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Princeton University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in PRSO for personal use.date: 26 May 2022

Faces of the Dead

Faces of the Dead

(p.92) 6 Faces of the Dead
In My Time of Dying

John Parker

Princeton University Press

This chapter reviews the most visible material manifestation of funerary culture on the Gold Coast and in its forest hinterland before the twentieth century: commemorative terracotta sculptures of the dead. The chapter notes that the Akan and their neighbours were parsimonious when it came to artistic engagement with the dead. Unlike in many societies, from ancient Egypt to medieval Christian Europe and on to modern Mexico, death in Ghana has not left a powerful visual residue. Even within West Africa, the Akan region is notable for the absence of art that served to mediate with ancestors and the spirit world: in contrast to cultural zones to the west, north and east, it had, for example, no masking tradition. The chapter looks at the role of the terracottas within the wider Akan funerary complex. It focuses on the evocative sculptures, but the aim, in the spirit of Sir Thomas Browne's reflections on ancient British burial urns, is that they illuminate something of that broader history of death.

Keywords:   funerary culture, terracotta sculptures, Akan, Ghana, death, Sir Thomas Browne, ancient burial urns

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