To the Grave and
Symbols of Liminality in West African Art
The spiral is a reference to the ongoing cycle of life. It is a recurring theme in West African textiles and wall art.
Trees transcend dimensions-their roots grow down into the underworld, while their branches reach into the heavens.
Snakes are creature that can live in many conditions; they can live underground in tunnels, above ground in the grass and also in the trees.
The mudfish is a highly revered creature as a symbol of transformation and power. The mudfish is able to metamorphose and transcend spiritual boundaries. The mudfish breathes through functioning lungs and also plays dead in dried up lakes, seemingly coming back to life when it rains.
White is a color which is associated with the dead. Therefore, white materials and imagery are used in African grave art involving seashells, kaolin clay, and depictions of white chickens.
Water Associations: The ancestors are thought to reside on the other side of a great body of water, which separates them from the living. Containers for water, Portuguese sailor imagery ,and again, seashells are incorporated in funerary art. Rituals involving water are also practiced during funerals in some African cultures.