Figurative Vessel



Figurative Vessel


20th Century


West Africa
Jen or Kwa


20 3/8 x 11 7/8 in. (51.8 x 30.2 cm)

Object Number



Vessels called ku'chan exemplify the transformation of utilitarian pots into ritual vessels through figuration: a face, hands, and genitals have been applied to this vessel. Ku'chan are used by Jen and Janjo communities residing in the Benue Valley region of Nigeria. By pouring offerings of beer and ground sprouted corn (evident on the surface of this vessel) over the pot, it is hoped that a benevolent spirit will take up residence within and secure prosperous game hunting for male Jen hunters. While female potters make ku'chan, it is men who interact with them in rituals. Nevertheless, because Jen men rely on women to make the vessels, women play a role in facilitating human interaction with the spirit world.

Credit Line

Ex coll. William S. Arnett


Art of Nigeria from the William S. Arnett Collection, Michael C. Carlos Museum, October 15, 1994 - January 2, 1995|
Spirited Vessels: Creation and Ritual in African Ceramics, Michael C. Carlos Museum, February 7 - April 11, 2004
Marcilene K. Wittmer and William Arnett, Three Rivers of Nigeria: Art of the Lower Niger, Cross, and Benue from the Collection of William and Robert Arnett (Atlanta: High Museum of Art, 1978), 106, number 250.


© Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. Photo by Michael McKelvey.
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On View



“Figurative Vessel,” Michael C. Carlos Museum Collections Online, accessed February 19, 2019,

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