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Image of Wakemia or Wunkirmian (Ceremonial Ladle)

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unknown Ivorian
Ivorian Primary

unknown Dan

Wakemia or Wunkirmian (Ceremonial Ladle)

Early 20th century
Carved wood

24 1/4 in. x 5 1/2 in. x 2 1/2 in. (61.6 cm x 13.97 cm x 6.35 cm)

Bryn Mawr College
Accession Number: 99.6.7
Other Number(s): P12 (Plass Number)
Geography: Africa, Côte d'Ivoire
Classification: Tools and Equipment; Food Processing, Preparation, & Service
Culture/Nationality: Dan, Ivorian, West African, African
Collection: Plass Collection
Description: This ceremonial spoon incorporates both naturalistic and abstract forms. The stylized female body on the handle is topped by the long, curvilinear bowl of the spoon, which can represent both the head of the woman and her body or womb.

As in many traditional African societies, the Dan observe rituals marking both the life cycle of an individual and those celebrating the agrarian life cycle. Spoons like this one, which embody ideas related to both human and agricultural fertility, often serve as status emblems for the women who preside at these ceremonies.

Keywords Click a term to view the records with the same keyword
This object has the following keywords:
  • African - Refers to the cultures of the continent of Africa, which is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea.
  • carvings - Refers to works executed by cutting a figure or design out of a solid material such as stone or wood. It typically refers to works that are relatively small in size, are part of a larger work, or are not considered art. For large and medium-sized three-dimensional works of art, use the broader term "sculpture" or another appropriate term.
  • Dan
  • Ivorian - Style and culture of the Ivory Coast.
  • ritual objects - Objects used for a particular ritual activity, often as part of a ceremony.
  • West African - Styles and cultures from the region comprising the westernmost area of the African continent, defined by the United Nations as including the modern nations of Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.
  • women - Refers to female human beings from young adulthood through old age.
  • wood - The principal tissue of trees and other plants that provides both strength and a means of conducting nutrients. Wood is one of the most versatile materials known.
  • wunkermian - Large, wooden, serving spoons with carved handles, typically in the form of a human head, domestic animals or ornament, used by the Dan and neighboring peoples in Liberia in association with feasts, and serving as a symbol of hospitality and generosity.

Additional Images Click an image to view a larger version
Additional Image 99.6.7_BMC_r.jpg
Additional Image 99.6.7_BMC_pr.jpg
Additional Image 99.6.7_BMC_pl.jpg
Additional Image 99.6.7_BMC_f_2.jpg
Additional Image 99.6.7_BMC_f.jpg
Additional Image 99.6.7_BMC_f_2.jpg
Additional Image 99.6.7_BMC_f_5.jpg
Additional Image 99.6.7_BMC_f_6.jpg

Exhibition List
This object was included in the following exhibitions:
  • Exhibiting Africa: Ways of Seeing, Knowing, and Showing Bryn Mawr College , Jan 25, 2017 – Mar 5, 2017
  • Feed Your Head: Food as Material and Metaphor Bryn Mawr College , Nov 4, 2011 – Dec 20, 2011
  • Worlds to Discover: 125 Years of Collections at Bryn Mawr College Bryn Mawr College , Sep 24, 2010 – May 28, 2011
  • African Art in the Greater Philadelphia Area The Community College of Philadelphia with a Grant from the William Penn Foundation , Nov 12, 1999 – Dec 17, 1999
  • African Art from the Collection of Margaret Feurer Plass '17 Bryn Mawr College , May 19, 1990 – Oct 1, 1992

Bibliography List
The following Bibliography exist for this object:
  • Marianne Hansen and Emily Croll. Worlds to Discover. Bryn Mawr College. Bryn Mawr, PA, 2010
    Page Number: 31
  • Frisk & Borodin Appraisers, Inventory and Appraisement Belonging to the Estate of Margaret Barton Plass, Deceased. 7 March 1990 Bryn Mawr College Special Collections. Bryn Mawr, PA, 1990
    Page Number: 3, Figure Number: 40

Comparanda List
The following Comparanda exist for this object:

Related Bibliography List
The following Related Bibliography exist for this object:
  • "The Met Online Collections Database." The Met Collection. (Accessed April 9, 2020): The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Accession No.: 1979.206.264.
  • Monica Blackmun Visona and Robin Poynor. A History of Art in Africa (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc., 2001), 186-187.
  • Ezio Bassani and Michael Bockemühl. The Power of Form (Milan, Italy: Skira Editore, 2002), 70-71. Figure Number: 19
  • "Rand African Art." (Accessed May 9, 2020):

Portfolio List Click a portfolio name to view all the objects in that portfolio
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If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=BMC>cite web |url= |title=Wakemia or Wunkirmian (Ceremonial Ladle) |author=Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections |accessdate=6/7/2023 |publisher=Bryn Mawr College</ref>

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