Terrakottaföremål från Ghana på British Museum: Materiella och immateriella assemblage
- Location: Ihresalen, Thunbergsvägen 3H, Uppsala
- Doctoral student: Granath Lagercrantz, Mari
- About the dissertation
- Organiser: Konstvetenskapliga institutionen
- Contact person: Granath Lagercrantz, Mari
The purpose of the thesis is to identify, describe and interpret two series of terracotta objects from southern Ghana originally donated by Robert P. Wild to the British Museum in London between 1933 and 1936.
The dissertation does not seek to answer questions of origin, intention and meaning, but seeks instead to show how phenomena such as production, distribution and consumption may better be understood as processes and situations that the object passes several times in its “social life”. The terracotta items donated by Wild to the British Museum can be related to what is commonly referred to as “Akan terracottas”, “Memorial terracottas” or “Terracotta funerary sculptures” in art- and cultural history-literature. These names identify a group of terracotta objects (mainly sculpture heads but also vessels) from southern and central Ghana, which have come to hold iconic positions in global cultural history, but also in the international art trade. As many researchers have shown, such terracotta objects are likely to be linked to some kind of funeral tradition, but they may also have had a number of other functions throughout their history. The dissertation is based on the study of a variety of materials relating to the institutional practices at the British Museum, and analyzes both material impressions left on the objects and also intangible aspects of them. By examining and analyzing the museal ethnographic object, the study highlights and discusses how such concepts as time, geographical space and institutional space have been materialized throughout history. In the study, the aim is related to Deleuze and Guattari’s thoughts about assemblage, rhizom and agency, which also assume that each body or object is a combination of different materials, ideas, and their abilities to connect to other bodies, objects, categories and concepts. The investigation also turns to the contemporary artist El Anatsui. The aim here is to show how El Anatsui’s work allows for a new interpretation of the terracotta objects. In the dissertation, it is shown that the circulation of the terracotta objects leaves its marks on them, transforming them, and that it is this ongoing process which creates the objects over and over again.