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Culture:African; Fon culture
Title:Ceremonial Axe (Récade)
Date Made:late 19th - early 20th century
Materials:wood, brass and steel
Place Made:Africa; Dahomey kingdom; Benin
Measurements:12 1/8 handle length x 11 x 8 1/2 in. axe head; 30.7975 x 27.94 x 21.59 cm
Narrative Inscription:  unmarked
Accession Number:  SC 1982.30.2
Credit Line:Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Irwin Smiley (Cecilia Sahlman, class of 1950)
Museum Collection:  Smith College Museum of Art

stylized axe in the form of chameleons and flower issuing from mouth of animal head with figure of antelope affixed behind; ceremony; animal

Label Text:
The talents of both a blacksmith and a wood carver were necessary to make this object since artists generally worked in a single medium.

This carving features animal motifs throughout. A small goat stands on the neck of a larger animal, whose mouth opens to spit out the blade. Two lizards with curling tails face each other at the end of the blade, whose triangular form is composed of plant-like silhouettes. The entire object of wood and steel is incised with fine patterning and decorative brass filigree.

Ceremonial axes were king’s objects and served as his symbol. Often they were given to messengers as they carried information to distant regions, so that recipients would know the word was directly and authentically from the king. If this object were once the possession of a king, it would have traveled all over the Dahomey kingdom.

Susan E. Kart '96, Assistant Professor of the Arts of Africa, Lehigh University (2018)

wars; ceremonies

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