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This is a statue of Shapona, the West African God of Smallpox. It is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Global Health Odyssey (GHO) collection of artifacts. A uniquely carved, wooden figure, it is adorned with layers of meaningful objects including monkey skulls, cowrie shells, and hair. Donated in 1995, by Ilze and Rafe Henderson, it was created by a traditional healer who made approximately 50 Shaponas, as commemorative objects for the CDC, World Health Organization (WHO), and other public health experts attending a 1969 conference on smallpox eradication. For another view of this statue, see PHIL 8003.
Additional Information:
Smallpox was thought to be a disease foisted upon humans due to Shapona’s divine displeasure, and formal worship of the God of Smallpox was highly controlled by specific priests in charge of shrines to the God. People believed that if angered, the priests themselves were capable of causing smallpox outbreaks, through their intimate relationship with Shapona. Suspecting that the priests were deliberately spreading the viral disease, the British colonial rulers banned the worship of Shapona in 1907. However, worshiping the deity continued, as the faithful paid homage to the God, even after such activities were prohibited.
High Resolution: Click here for hi-resolution image (6.45 MB)
Content Providers(s):CDC/ Global Health Odyssey
Creation Date:2005
Photo Credit:James Gathany
CDC Organization
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Copyright Restrictions:None - This image is in the public domain and thus free of any copyright restrictions. As a matter of courtesy we request that the content provider be credited and notified in any public or private usage of this image.