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Soapstone head
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SOAPSTONE CARVINGS ARE rare in sub-Saharan Africa, but they are found in a small area covering parts of the modern states of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Most of the sculptures are of human form and some of these are just heads. In Sierra Leone the Mende, who find them while preparing their fields, believe them to be from the previous owners of the land and make offerings to them to increase their harvest.

Pieces from Kissi country, such as this, tend to be different in style. The Kissi worship them in the belief that they represent their ancestors. These sculptures were probably made by the ancestors of the Kissi peoples who inhabited lands currently occupied by the Mende. It is very difficult to date the sculptures with any certainty or to know for what purpose they were originally carved. It seems likely, however, that they are at least several hundred years old.

Soapstone head


Kissi, from Sierra Leone, possibly 17th or 18th century AD Ht24 cm
Gift of Mrs E. W. Fuller in memory of Captain A. W.F. Fuller Art Fund




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