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With All Due Respect

The most generous woman
<b>Bassa</b><br> Ivory Coast<br><b>Spoon</b>, 20th century<br>Wood
zoom Bassa
Ivory Coast
Spoon, 20th century


Would you say that this spoon is unusual? Why would a spoon be carved in the shape of someone’s head? In the country of Ivory Coast, on the west coast of Africa, some spoons are more than just eating utensils. They play an important part in the life of Bassa people.

Bassa villagers celebrate religious and social occasions with rituals, group meals, and dancing. During these celebrations the community honors the woman who is most generous with the food her family harvests. A large wooden spoon is carved for her in the form of a woman with a stylish hairdo, lined neck, and full lips. She uses this spoon to throw rice into the crowd to welcome guests at community festivals.

Spoons like this have been used for centuries to entertain at festivals, but they also have spiritual powers. It is hoped that such a spoon will protect the village from misfortune, as well as help the woman serve the community and remain a successful farmer.

Educators' Evening
October 2003