A Zoomorphic Funerary Vessel
Sezuru people, a sub-group of the Shona
32 cm X 34 cms
This extraordinary vessel of what appears to be a striped goat (note the horns) is part of a small corpus of ritual zoomorphic vessels collected in the late 19th or early 20th century, all attributed to Mashonaland. The vessels are terracotta with incised decoration coloured with ochre and burnished graphite, creating stylised striped animal markings.
Such vessels have been described as the “Mondoro vases” and are the work of Zezuru potters. Mondoro are the principal spirits of the Shona people and also refer to an ancient cult of priestesses who guarded the “Burial Place of Chiefs” at the Great Zimbabwe acropolis. The Sezuru are Shona people living in the central highlands of Mashonaland. The vessels were said to contain the viscera of deceased chiefs and have legs so that they could take soul of the deceased for a walk on his lands. It is interesting to speculate whether these funereal pots have a distant connection with the canopic jars that were used to hold the viscera of ancient Egyptians.
A full presentation of this object is available upon request.
restoration on the legs and horns (conservators report available)
The British Empire and Commonwealth Museum