Accepted paper:

Putting Masako to rest: the story of a Hadza doll's death and the end of futurity

Author:

Thea Skaanes (Moesgaard Museum)

Paper short abstract:

The Hadza clay-doll Masako was 'born' and given to me as part of the material collection that we co-curated and generated during fieldwork. This paper presents the story of her and how she embodies kinship relations, an access to the woman's spiritual power, and a promise of futurity.

Paper long abstract:

The Tanzanian hunting and gathering Hadza have been an odd case among human societies. They allegedly present a rare case of a group entertaining "no belief in an afterlife" (Woodburn 1981), who have a "minimalist form of religion, where individuals engage in few religious practices and show disbelief in the existence of powerful supernatural agents" (Apicella 2017). In short, they are known as one of the simplest human societies: "the Hadza ranked at the bottom of the complexity scale; we would be hard-pressed to find a less complex society" (Marlowe 2010). However, this paper presents another story. It shows how working with a material focus among the hunter-gathering Hadza elicited narratives of cosmology, people, and objects that were all but simple and minimalist. Working with the power objects (Apter &Pietz 1993), hitherto silenced stories on intimate object-relations, extended personhood, and ritual practices found expression. This paper presents the story of a named clay-doll, and how she embodies kinship relations, an access to the woman's spiritual power, and a promise of reproduction and of futurity. Masako, a named clay-doll was 'born' and given to me as part of the material collection that we co-curated and generated during fieldwork. Her genealogy and the significance of her name was explained to me, and I was instructed to bury her if she was to die. As part of her material life-circle, the day came, when I experienced the troubling burden of holding a dead doll and being in need of keeping my promise that Masako, the doll, should be put to rest.

panel P015
Breaking the Silence: Heritage Objects and Cultural Memory