Sakalava grave post

19th–20th century
Artist Unidentified

Object Place: Vezo village, Madagascar


83.82 cm (33 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


On View

Richard B. Carter Gallery (Gallery 171)


Africa and Oceania



Separated from the African continent by two-hundred-and-fifty-mile straits with powerful currents, Madagascar has a mixed population of Africans, Asians, and Arabs. Some Bantu speakers maintained family grave compounds where they erected large, wooden grave posts commonly called aloala, translated as “shadow of death.” These works are sometimes carved with geometric motifs that suggest Islamic influences; others show human figures whose proportions are more realistic than those of most African sculptures. This weathered female figure from the top of the Sakalava post has one arm bent behind her back and a raised face topped by a knobbed coiffure.


May, 1972, sold by the Galerie Alain Schoffel, Paris, to William and Bertha Teel, Marblehead, MA; 1994, partial gift of William and Bertha Teel to the MFA; 2014, acquired fully with the bequest of William Teel to the MFA. (Accession Dates: January 26, 1994 and February 26, 2014)

Credit Line

Gift of William E. and Bertha L. Teel