Object of the Week: Benin Courtier


Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day federal troops led by General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to inform Texans that all enslaved people were now free. Their arrival came two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, which freed all enslaved people in Confederate states. Slavery continued in Texas during the Civil War since there was not any large-scale fighting as well as a lack of Union troops. Many slave owners even moved to Texas during that time.[1] Upon General Granger’s arrival in Galveston, there were 250,000 enslaved people in Texas.[2] Slavery was formally abolished in the United States with the ratification of the 13th Amendment in December 1865. Juneteenth, a combination of “June” and “19th,” is the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.[3] While Juneteenth celebrations originated in Texas, which was also the first state to make it an official holiday, 47 states and Washington D.C. recognize it as a state holiday today and there is a push to make it a federal holiday as well.

Small reproduction statue of a Benin Courtier from the waist up
Benin Courtier (reproduction), Seton Hall University Teaching Collection, T2017.01.0016

In recognition of Juneteenth, the Walsh Gallery has created a teaching collection from a subset of the Seton Hall Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology Collection (SHUMAA). It is a vast collection of art and artifacts compiled by former Seton Hall Professor Herbert Kraft from a variety of world cultures. This collection in particular consists of sculptures and masks from places such as Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Nigeria, and Ghana in addition to many other countries and cultures. The statue featured above is a Benin courtier serving as an emissary to the Oba, or king, of Benin from the Ooni of Ife, the monarch of the Yoruba people. The original sculpture was cast in bronze. The Kingdom of Benin (which is different from the present-day nation state of the same name), also known as the Edo Kingdom or the Benin Empire, existed from around the 11th century CE until 1897. The kingdom was located in West Africa in what is now Nigeria. This statue, along with two other pieces from the collection, are currently on view in the window display in the Walsh Library Rotunda on the second floor. Make sure to take a look! Materials in the Teaching Collection can be utilized by students and faculty for research projects and classroom learning for object-based projects. To check out these objects, contact the Walsh Gallery at walshgallery@shu.edu or by phone at 973-275-2033.


[1] https://www.history.com/news/what-is-juneteenth, accessed 6/11/21.

[2] https://nmaahc.si.edu/blog-post/historical-legacy-juneteenth, accessed 6/11/21.

[3] https://www.archives.gov/news/articles/juneteenth-original-document, accessed 6/11/21.

Object of the Week: Mangbetu Effigy Jug

Mangbetu Effigy Jug (reproduction)
Teaching Collection – Seton Hall University Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology Collection
Courtesy of the Walsh Gallery



This year’s annual celebration of African American History Month is anchored by the theme “Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity,” which focuses on the African diaspora and the spread of Black families across the United States.  This reproduction from Seton Hall University’s Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology is from the Mangbetu peoples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa.  Like other Central and West African groups in the United States, the first Congolese arrived in the Americas as enslaved people during the transatlantic slave trade which endured from the 16th to the 19th century.    Congolese people were often taken to locales in Louisiana and South Carolina.  People from West and Central African regions comprised almost 40% of enslaved peoples in the Americas.[1]

Mangbetu refers to an amalgam of linguistically and culturally related people in the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The group includes the Mangbetu, Meegye, Makere, Malele, Popoi and Abelu. These groups share the common language known as Kingbetu.[2]  Beginning in the 1960s, a new influx of voluntary immigrants from the Democratic Republic of the Congo arrived in the United States, primarily to pursue an education.  Immigration from the country to the United States rose again in the 1990s.  However, this time, Congolese people arrived as refugees due to civil conflicts, violence and economic hardship.[3]  The United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees reports that between 2008 and 2013, approximately 11,000 Congolese refugees arrived in the United States, settling primarily in Texas, Arizona, Kentucky, and New York.[4]

Despite this fraught history, the Mangbetu have held fast to many of their rich cultural traditions.  They are especially known for their pottery, metal work and as makers of musical instruments.  Women potters would have been the primary makers of effigy jugs like this figurative vessel with its characteristic dark, burnished surface.  Though the Mangbetu still make jugs like these, they are now sold to tourists and art collectors rather than used in daily life. [5]  The elaborate coiffure depicted on this jug is characteristic of a traditional Mangbetu woman and is not idealized.

Contemporary Ivory Coast artist Laetitia Ky is inspired by traditional hair styles from African peoples such as the Mangbetu.  Her art is a fusion of hair, design and sculpture.  Ky ‘sculpts’ her hair into the traditional forms she finds in archival images of African women.  Ky then photographs her style and juxtaposes her image next to the historic photograph that inspired her.  She also teaches “Ky-braid” workshops to teach others how to style their hair in traditional African ways.  Ky uses hair as a form of social justice – merging cultural and feminine pride while bringing awareness to issues such as violence against women, gender parity, colonialism and bullying.  Ky uses her TikTok and Twitter accounts to reach the public.[6]


Laetitia Ky (left) with archival image of an unknown Mangbetu woman that inspired her.

This video shows an array of hairstyles from Africa such as the types that Ky is inspired by.  You can see the Mangbetu hairstyle similar to the effigy jug around the 3:30 timestamp in this celebration of hair.


The Walsh Gallery has a considerable collection of fine art, artifacts and archeological specimens for use by faculty, students and researchers. For access to this or other objects in our collections, contact us at 973-275-2033 or walshgallery@shu.edu to make a research appointment. 



[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic_slave_trade, accessed 1/26/2021.

[2] https://thisisafrica.me/african-identities/mangbetu-people-drc/, accessed 1/26/2021.

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congolese_Americans#cite_note-Africansdescend-11, accessed 1/25/2021.

[4] https://www.cdc.gov/immigrantrefugeehealth/profiles/congolese/population-movements/index.html, accessed 1/25/2021.

[5] https://spectrumartsincblog.com/2015/07/25/the-mangbetu-people-and-their-pottery/, accessed 1/25/2021.

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laetitia_Ky, accessed 2/8/2021.

Object of the Week: Akabeko (Ox or Cow Toy)

Akabeko (Ox or Cow toy)
Painted and lacquered papier-mâché
3 ¾” H x 5 ְ⅝” W x 1 ⅞” D
Fukushima, Japan
Seton Hall University Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology Collection




The Lunar New Year is primarily celebrated in Asian countries such as China, Vietnam, South Korea, Singapore, Tibet and Mongolia.  The festival has different names depending upon the country.  It is called Tết in Vietnam and Losar in Tibet.  The Lunar New Year represents new beginnings regardless of the region or country, though each region’s traditions vary.  The holiday occurs on the first new moon of the lunisolar calendar, which lasts roughly 354 days and is traditional to many east Asian countries, in contrast to the 365 day Gregorian calendar used in the United States. Traditionally, the festival was a ceremonial day to pray to gods and ancestors for a good planting and harvest season. The three main themes of the holiday are fortune, happiness, and health.

Each new year is associated with an animal sign from the zodiac.  The Lunar New Year marks the transition from one animal to the next and each has its own attributes. In order, the zodiac animals are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.[1]  This year, 2021, is the Year of the Ox.  If you were born in an Ox year, you are diligent, dependable, strong and determined.  Oxen have traditional, conservative characteristics.[2]  If you would like to know what your zodiac animal is, you can look it up on this chart[3]:

Chart with the zodiac animals and which years in the past and future coincide with each animal

Unlike other Asian countries, Japan no longer celebrates Lunar New Year. In 1873, during the Meiji Restoration – the political revolution – Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar to put the country in step with the West.  Initially, this break with the traditional lunisolar calendar was strongly opposed.  Many Japanese continued to celebrate the Lunar New Year well into the 20th century, especially in rural areas. Eventually, the lunisolar calendar faded completely from daily life in Japan.[4] Today, the New Year in Japan is celebrated on December 31 and is known as Ōmisoka.[5]

Image of the Enzoji Temple, Japan
Enzoji Temple, Japan

Though Japan no longer celebrates the Lunar New Year as a whole, there are vestiges of the traditional celebration that hold fast.  “Little New Year,” or Koshōgatsu, is celebrated on January 15. For the New Year’s breakfast, it is still customary to eat azukigayu (rice porridge) with sweet, red azuki beans. In the past, after eating this meal, a divination ritual would then be performed by placing bamboo cylinders in the remaining porridge and leaving them overnight. The more rice that was stuck inside the cylinders the following morning, the better the harvest would be that year.  Today, some temples and shrines still perform the traditional divination rituals.[6]  Another custom that is held over from traditional Lunar New Year celebrations is to make and eat rice cakes (mochi).[7]

The object of the week is an ox is from the Seton Hall Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology. This toy is known as Akabeko (赤べこ), a legendary cow[8] from Japan, said to have helped build the famous Enzoji Buddhist Temple. It is one of the three main temples dedicated to Kokuzo Bosatsu, a bodhisattva whose wisdom was said to be as expansive as the universe.  The toy is made out of two pieces of wood covered with

Life-size akabeko outside the Enzoji Temple in Fukushima Prefecture
Life-size akabeko outside the Enzoji Temple in Fukushima Prefecture

papier-mâché, shaped and painted to look like a red cow or ox. One piece comprises the cow’s head and neck and the other, its body. The head and neck hang from a string which runs through the hollow body so that when the toy is moved, the head bobs up and down and side to side. The earliest akabeko toys were created in the late 16th or early 17th century.[9]    Today, the toy has become a symbol of the Fukushima Prefecture where the Enzoji Temple is located[10].

The Walsh Gallery has a considerable collection of fine art, artifacts and archeological specimens for use by faculty, students and researchers. For access to this or other objects in our collections, contact us at 973-275-2033 or walshgallery@shu.edu to make a research appointment. 



[1] https://chinesenewyear.net/zodiac/, accessed 1/28/2021.

[2] https://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/chinese-zodiac/ox.htm, accessed 1/28/2021.

[3] https://www.travelchinaguide.com/intro/social_customs/zodiac/, accessed 1/28/2021.

[4] https://www.cheng-tsui.com/blog/why-doesn%E2%80%99t-japan-celebrate-the-lunar-new-year, accessed 2/3/2021.

[5] https://www.cheng-tsui.com/blog/why-doesn%E2%80%99t-japan-celebrate-the-lunar-new-year, accessed 2/3/2021.

[6] https://www.cheng-tsui.com/blog/why-doesn%E2%80%99t-japan-celebrate-the-lunar-new-year, accessed 2/3/2021.

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_New_Year, accessed 2/3/2021.

[8] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akabeko, accessed 2/1/2021.

[9] https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e7712.html, accessed 2/1/2021.

[10] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akabeko, accessed 2/1/2021.

Object of the Week: Guro Mask

Guro Mask (reproduction)
Teaching Collection – Seton Hall University Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology Collection
Courtesy of the Walsh Gallery



This year’s theme for African American History Month is “Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity.”  This theme illuminates the African diaspora and the spread of Black families across the United States.  This mask, from Seton Hall University’s Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology, is from the Guro (also Gouro) People of the Ivory Coast in West Africa.   This region of the continent was profoundly affected by the Transatlantic Slave Trade.  An estimated 12 to 12.8 million forced migrations of African people took place over the course of more than 400 years.  Those who survived the passage were enslaved in Europe and the Americas.[1]

Despite this trauma, West Africans and African Americans have retained many customs from their respective cultures.  Music and dance are two of the most prevalent ways humanity connects with the past, and masks are a powerful and important part of these traditions in West Africa.  In many African cultures, including the Guro, masks are potent instruments of unity, family and community.[2]  Used in traditional ceremonies and rites such as funerals, weddings and festivals, the masks are activated through music and dance, playing an important role in honoring ancestors and providing community members with palpable links to the past.[3]

Guro dancer performing
Guro Dancer performing
Courtesy of Danse traditionnelle du du centre-ouest de la Côte d’Ivoire (Zaouli) à la cérémonie de la flamme de la paix à Bouaké.
Feb 25, 2008
Courtesy of Zenman

In West Africa, secret societies are an important part of community life.   The Guro societies are called Je for females and Kne for males.  Only members of these secret societies may wear masks and perform in rituals honoring ancestors.[4]  Chika Okeke-Agula, a West African performer/curator/artist and art historian explained, “When fully activated, masks become ‘spirits made tangible’.”[5]  The mask provides an entry into the spirit world to channel the divine, summon ancestral wisdom, escort the departed, accompany initiates, reaffirm societal values, venerate the living, and to mark the natural cycles of existence, from birth to death, season to season.​[6]  The ceremonies in which masks are used are called ‘masquerades’ – interventions between the world of the living and the world of the ancestors. During masquerades, the full powers of the masks are released.[7]

The video below from UNESCO shows a masked Guro dancer wearing traditional clothing.  Dances are energetic and marked by quick footwork, accompanied by drumming and elaborate costumes.  This traditional music and dance known as Zaouli[8] plays an educational, playful and aesthetic role, contributes to environmental preservation, conveys the cultural identity of its bearers and promotes integration and social cohesion among community members.[9]

The Walsh Gallery has a considerable collection of fine art, artifacts and archeological specimens for use by faculty, students and researchers. For access to this or other objects in our collections, contact us at 973-275-2033 or walshgallery@shu.edu to make a research appointment. 


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic_slave_trade#:~:text=Slaves%20were%20imprisoned%20in%20a,a%20span%20of%20400%20years, accessed 1/21/2021.

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zaouli, accessed 1/21/2021.

[3] https://www.africancraftsmarket.com/products/african-masks/African-Guro-mask.html, accessed 1/21/2021.

[4] https://kwekudee-tripdownmemorylane.blogspot.com/2014/06/guro-gouro-people-artistic-mande-mask.html, accessed 1/25/2021.

[5] https://www.culturesofwestafrica.com/west-african-mask/, accessed 1/26/2021.

[6] Binkley DA. Masks and Masquerades. In: Peek PM, Yankah K, eds. African Folklore: An Encyclopedia. New York, NY, USA: Routledge; 2004:479-485.

[7] Akubor EO. Africans’ concept of masquerades and their role in societal control and stability: Some notes on the Esan people of southern Nigeria. Asian and African Studies. 2016;25(1):32-50.

[8] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zaouli, accessed 1/26/2021.

[9] https://ich.unesco.org/en/RL/zaouli-popular-music-and-dance-of-the-guro-communities-in-cote-divoire-01255, accessed 1/26/2021.

Object of the Week: Chimú Banded Hanging Pot

Banded Hanging Pot
1000 – 1400
5” H x 5” W x 5” D
Gift of Jack Noel Jacobsen Jr.
Seton Hall University Museum of Anthropology and Archeology


This pot was made in the Chimor Empire, which was one of the largest and most prosperous civilizations in South America between the 10th and 15th centuries, before being overtaken by the Inca around 1470.  The Chimú resided in fertile river valleys located on a strip of desert on the northern

Map of Chimu Empire
Map of Chimú Empire shown in yellow

coast of present-day Peru. The region was favorable for crop irrigation and plentiful supplies of fish, both important drivers for their economy.  The Chimú, were comprised of many different ethnic groups owing to ongoing expansion into new regions.  Most citizens were artisans who used extensive trade networks to contribute to this flourishing culture.  This pot is an example of the empire’s distinctive monochromatic pottery which was utilitarian in nature, but the Chimú were also known for more elaborately decorated crafts made of precious metals such as the rattle pictured below.[1]

Chimú gold rattle
Chimú gold rattle, courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago via https://www.ancient.eu/image/3795/chimu-gold-rattle/

The Chimú lived in urban settings and left behind many formidable examples of architecture. The former capital, Chan-Chan, not far from present-day Trujillo, contains 14 square miles of their former cityscape where streets, imposing walls, reservoirs and temples still stand.  The size of the ruins suggests the city was populated by thousands.[2]

Chan-Chan Ruins by Veronique Debord
Chan-Chan Ruins by Veronique Debord https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ChanChanCapitalChimu.jpg


The Walsh Gallery has a considerable collection of fine art, artifacts and archeological specimens for use by faculty, students and researchers. For access to this or other objects in our collections, contact us at 973-275-2033 or fill out a research request form to make a research appointment. 



[1] https://www.ancient.eu/Chimu_Civilization/, accessed 12/18/2020.

[2] https://www.britannica.com/topic/Chimu , accessed 12/18/2020.


Object of the Week: Pomo Basket

Pomo basket
Plant fiber and shell
5” x 20” x 9 ½”
c. 1880
Collected by Brian Templeton, Seton Hall University Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology



“Among our people, both men and women were basket makers. Everything in our lifestyle was connected to those baskets. Our lives were bound the way baskets were bound together.” -Susan Billy, Ukiah Pomo, master weaver and teacher[1]

This canoe-shaped gift basket with geometric designs and shell bead decoration is from the Pomo of California who are world renowned for their basketry. The Pomo are native to Mendocino, Sonoma and Lake Counties in Northern California. Historically, the Pomo were comprised of seven different groups with distinct dialects, each living in different areas. They lived in small groups linked by geography, lineage, cultural expression and marriage. However, they are not linked socially or politically as a unified group. Today there are more than 20 independent communities that make up the Pomo people.[2]

Pomo basketry comes in all shapes and sizes and both coiling and twining techniques are adeptly used. Coiling begins at the center of a basket and radiates outward in spirals. Each spiral is sewn to the one that precedes it. Twining is a technique in which one thread is woven over another to form a strong foundation of horizontal and verticals. Historically, the Pomo were known for making baskets woven so tightly they were naturally waterproof. Sedge grasses, willow roots and bullrushes gathered in local coasts and wetlands are commonly used in basket-making, in addition to bird feathers and shells.[3] Once collected, materials are dried, cleaned, split, soaked and dyed.[4] A common design in many Pomo baskets is the Dau, also called the “Spirit Door” which allows good spirits to come circulate inside the basket. There is no specific way for it to be designed – it could be depicted in a minute change in the stitching or an opening between stitches.[5]

In the past, baskets were decorative and given as gifts to respected elders and loved ones, while others served practical purposes in daily life. Women produced most Pomo baskets, specifically those for cooking, storage, and religious ceremonies, while men traditionally made baskets for trapping, fishing, and cradles.[6] Beginning in the 1880’s the tourist industry boomed and a demand for woven goods invigorated production for sale rather than use.

This Pomo basket is from the Seton Hall University Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology (SHUMAA) collection. It is but a small part of a vast collection of artifacts from the SHUMAA collection, founded by Seton Hall Professor Herbert Kraft (1927-2000), a leading archaeologist and authority on the Leni Lenape tribe which inhabited New Jersey, Delaware, southern New York and eastern Pennsylvania at the time Europeans arrived in the Americas.  For almost forty years, Kraft cultivated the collection with artifacts excavated from archaeological digs conducted throughout the region. Kraft was also instrumental in securing donations of artifacts from noted collectors and archaeologists. The SHUMAA collection includes over 26,000 Native American, Asian and African art and artifacts.


The Walsh Gallery has a considerable collection of fine art, artifacts and archeological specimens for use by faculty, students and researchers. For access to this or other objects in our collections, contact us at 973-275-2033 or walshgallery@shu.edu to make a research appointment. 










[1] http://www.kstrom.net/isk/art/basket/pomohist.html, accessed 11/16/2020.

[2] https://www.drycreekrancheria.com/history-2/, accessed 11/13/2020.

[3] https://www.drycreekrancheria.com/culture/, accessed 11/16/2020.

[4] https://americanindian.si.edu/exhibitions/all_roads_are_good/pomobasket.htm, accessed 11/16/2020.

[5] https://americanindian.si.edu/exhibitions/all_roads_are_good/pomobasket.htm, accessed 11/16/2020.

[6] https://www.hoplandtribe.com/culture-traditions, accessed 11/16/2020.