Djenne Shrine


Shrine with Serpents • Terracotta • Inland Delta of the Niger River (Djenne), Mali • circa 1300-1600 A.D. • H. 22,0 cm • New Orleans Museum of Art, Robert P. Gordy Fund, 90.196
Shrine with Serpents • Terracotta • Inland Delta of the Niger River (Djenne), Mali • circa 1300-1600 A.D. • H. 22,0 cm • New Orleans Museum of Art, Robert P. Gordy Fund, 90.196

 

The radiological study of this hollow terracotta suggests that the structure was filled with headless figures/masses before the door was sealed.

 

Video CT scan : 3D half opaque VRT view with an oblique clipping plane


Indeed the CT scan reveals eight headless elongated masses (5) lying side by side inside the shrine, one of them in the shape of a 113-mm-long pregnant female figure (4) placed just inside the door (1), with her right arm emerging on the outside; she is a birthing posture (8) with her left arm lifted at her side (3).


The two serpents’ heads meet at the door, the lower one (6) placed where the figure’s head should be ; the upper one hiding her breast (7).

 

The base of the shrine is divided by a thick crack at the back (9).

The headless pregnant figure and elongated masses are surrounded by low-density sediment.

 


As noted by Kristina Van Dyke, the former assistant curator for collections at The Menil Collection, Houston, the scene depicted here may partly resonate with the oral story of Bida (Wagadugu).

 

Shrine with Serpents • Terracotta • Inland Delta of the Niger River (Djenne), Mali • circa 1300-1600 A.D. • H. 22,0 cm • New Orleans Museum of Art, Robert P. Gordy Fund, 90.196
Shrine with Serpents • Terracotta • Inland Delta of the Niger River (Djenne), Mali • circa 1300-1600 A.D. • H. 22,0 cm • New Orleans Museum of Art, Robert P. Gordy Fund, 90.196

 

And here is the 3D scan built from the data collected during the CT scan study: