Ceramic; L. 4 in. (10.2 cm)
Gift of Roberta Lee Boxer, 1984 (1984.507.17)
Tubular ceramic flutes and ocarinas (vessel flutes) are frequent finds in Tairona burials. Replete with sculptural imagery and finely detailed surfaces typical of Tairona art, these instruments continue to be used by religious specialists of the Kogidescendants of the Taironaduring ritual dances. This example is a crescent or winged type. The "wings," each with two finger holes, may refer to the symbolic soul flight of the shaman, who was believed capable of leaving his body to contact the spirit world. Worked in high relief and wearing ritual attire, the frontal figure is in a hands-on-hips stance. Dense incision and stippling decorate both body and face. His lower jaw projects stronglyan animal mouth mask is probably wornand a long, curved and grooved tongue hangs from his mouth, a common feature on Tairona ocarinas. No eyes are indicated under the bulging brow. The mouthpiece, indicated by the central notch, is at the top of the fanned headdress.
Based on accounts written by Spaniards at the time of contact with the Tairona in the early sixteenth century, the figure represents Heisei (master of diseases and of human sexuality), a supernatural in Tairona mythology.