In some parts of Ghana, clay pots have a significant role in the burial process for chiefs and other prominent people.
They take different shapes and are made from burnt clay – what is known as Terracotta.
The ‘Abusua Kuruwa’ is also known as the ‘family pot’ has a unique relevance in the Akan setting.
Whilst the symbols of the carved figures vary, they perform the same role.
In this episode of People of Places which focused on key cultural and historical items in Ghana’s National Museum, Senior Museums and Monuments Officer, Samuel Amegah Jnr. explained that these carvings are used during burial ceremonies among Akans, to send off their royalties.
“These are Terracotta figuring for our burial of our chiefs, particularly in the Akan areas and that is the Abusua Kuruwa…This will become servant in the grave and in the land of the ancestors,” he said.
“It accompanies the dead body and it is believed that once a king, always a king so you need to be served in the next world that you find yourself in and so this will become servant to the king in the next world,” he added.
What is the Abusua Kuruwa:
The name is derived from two Akan words; ‘Abusua’ and ‘Kuruwa’ which translates – ‘Family’ and ‘pot’ respectively. This is a commemorative container used during funerals of royalties and prominent persons among the Akans.
They are usually displayed during second burial celebrations. It is believed that these vessels in time past sometimes served as drinking vessels for the family of the deceased. Such pots are also seen on shrines, in royal stool rooms, and even in residential compounds, where they hold drinking water for the ranking elder, reflecting his or her close connection to the ancestors.
But the Abusua Kuruwa was mainly used as a container in the ritual of unity.
Family members sometimes place strands of their hair inside the pot alongside the hair of their departed loved one.
After the funeral, this vessel could have been used as a grave marker, or kept in a shrine or special section of a cemetery in tribute to the deceased.
Historians say that the pot is sent along to the grave of the deceased who joins other ancestors after their souls depart from their bodies.
Ancient ideology indicates that deceased Akan rulers must move on to the next life with their privileges and status intact.
This was premised on a long-held belief that, a deceased ruler would need these items to set up his court in the afterlife.
At the designated funerary deposit site, the memorial portrait of the ruler would therefore be accompanied by smaller sculptures and assorted ritual pots.
An elaborate ritual meal would also be cooked at that site in the forest for the spirit of the deceased as his soul was ushered into the afterlife.