Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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Deity Figure (Zemí)

Date:
ca.1000
Geography:
Dominican Republic (?), Caribbean
Culture:
Taíno
Medium:
Wood (Guaiacum sp.), shell
Dimensions:
H. 27 x W. 8 5/8 x D. 9 1/8 in. (68.5 x 21.9 x 23.2cm)
Classification:
Wood-Sculpture
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
1979.206.380
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 358
The Taino peoples of the Greater Antilles—the islands of Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, and Jamaica—produced the most distinctive works of art of all of the Caribbean islands during Precolumbian times. Highly individual forms such as the ritual objects known as "zemis," or idols, were made of stone or wood in different sizes and shapes. The zemis could be named and personally owned, and they were dressed and fed on special occasions. Zemis such as this one in the shape of a crouched, emaciated human figure with a platelike form on the top of the head are thought to have been used in ceremonies that included the taking of hallucinogenic snuff, or "cohoba." The snuff was placed on top of the zemi and inhaled through small tubes into the nostrils. The altered states of consciousness induced by the snuff were important to divination and curing rituals, among others.
Edna Dakeyne, London, mid-1930s–1955; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1955, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1956–1978

Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1969, no. 537.

Newton, Douglas, Julie Jones, and Kate Ezra. The Pacific Islands, Africa, and the Americas. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987, no. 97, pp. 132–3.

LaGamma, Alisa. "The Nelson Rockefeller Vision: In Pursuit of the Best in the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin Vol. 72 (2014), p. 6.



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