DUHO, CEREMONIAL SEAT
TAÏNO – Dominican Republic
1000 – 1500 A.D.
Height : 7 cm – Length : 28 cm – Width : 20.4 cm
Light green amphibolite with brown patina
This singular sculpture is the work of the Taino people, who occupied most of the Greater Antilles when of Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492. It is called a duho and is a ceremonial seat reserved for chiefs and shamans and used during ceremonies, in particular for the great ritual of the cohoba. The example above is distinguished by its sober form, without artifice, and the quality of its polished stone, of a very beautiful light green.
There are different types of duhos: low duhos, similar to our work, consisting of a fairly rectangular platform, rounded at the corners, mounted on four short legs, and duhos with a high backrest, strongly inclined towards the rear, and four legs, more like an armchair.
The zoomorphic figure visible on the front is called a zemís, a term used by the Taino Indians to identify a sacred entity embodying a deity or the spirit of a clan ancestor. The zemis, whose cult was central to the West Indies before the conquest, can be found in an astonishing variety of forms: jewelry, amulets, vases, dishes, spoons, spatulas, pestles, totems, funeral urns and on the ceremonial seats of dignitaries.
The large circular eyes, hollowed out and with a protruding rim, are one of the characteristics of these powerful idols, which often appear gaunt. These orbits were perhaps once inlaid with shell or gold leaf, as can be seen on rare examples preserved in museums (see below).
The four conical feet that support this seat evoke the tubers of manioc, the basis of the local diet. Their shape may also symbolize the maternal breast. This interpretation is the one adopted for other types of zemis, the three-pointed zemis, also known as trigonoliths, with a pear-shaped body.