Terracotta Fertility Effigy Medicine Container of Prehistoric Eurasian Designed by Modern Pare Group, Tanzania East Africa
This 7" tall medicine container bears a striking resemblance to (fig 2.8a) a female effigy of a pregnant woman that is described as a child's doll from the Beta Israel potters of the 1960's (ref 2.3.1). The container is unique as it is ceramic with thick patina from years of use. Where the majority of containers in the region are normally made of calabash or gourds. Also unique is that the head and body are one piece with a simple bamboo stopper as compared to ones made of calabash/gourds where the head is a separate stopper. This head has a long nose, round ears, and piercing eyes that typify figures made by the Kisi or Pare.
Small pottery containers and figurines are among the ritual objects made throughout northeastern Tanzania for use in sacred practices, called ughanga, that are important in healing physical and psychological afflictions and misfortunes. Ughanga is, in fact, a multifaceted and adaptive institution that pervades much of society in northeastern Tanzania, and ughanga objects such as this receptacle hold medicines and in some cases embody spirits that can be called upon to aid in treatment. The medicines are made by traditional healers, called waghanga, who are expert herbalists and the keepers of cultural knowledge, history, and custom. They may administer their mixtures in a straightforward fashion or in conjunction with prayer, with the singing and dancing of spirit songs, and in ritual performances that unite all of these facets and allow the healer to engage with spirits and ancestors.
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