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Water Container

A work made of terracotta and slip.

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  • A work made of terracotta and slip.


Early/mid–20th century


Possibly Somono or Bobo
Mali or Burkina Faso
Northern Africa and the Sahel

About this artwork

On this container, dynamic slip-painted and low-relief embellishment are combined in a unique manner. The vessel’s round body sits on a low foot and is crowned by a slightly flared neck. An elongated lizard wraps around one side, chasing the tail of an undulating snake that likewise creeps up on the lizard’s tail. Each creature’s body was rendered in a flattened, schematized style and embellished with a diagonal texture applied with twisted-fiber roulette. The dull, cream color of the fired clay was left on the interior of the container in a band around the neck and shoulder, and in a large patch on one side. Red-orange slip, derived from iron oxide, covers the animal’s bodies and the bulk of the pot below them; it also rings the mouth and defines inverted Vs that sit in stacks of two and three around the shoulder.

The origin of this vessel is uncertain. Its basic shape—a plump body, short thick neck, and engaged foot—is typical of water storage containers produced by many potters among the Mande and related peoples across central and southern Mali and northern Burkina Faso, including the Somono and Bobo. While red slip painting is also common in these areas, raised and flattened imagery in not seen today. Red slip-painted vessels also are made by the Bobo, who live east of the Somono in Mali and Burkina Faso. Bobo potters use a direct pull method to form the base of a vessel, adding coils when necessary to increase the height.


Currently Off View


Arts of Africa




Water Container


Mali (Object made in)


Made 1900–1950


Terracotta and slip


45.7 × 45.7 cm (18 × 18 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Keith Achepohl

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


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