ID#: 8004
Description: Caption:
This is a statue of Shapona, the West African God of Smallpox. It is part of the historic collection of artifacts at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention David J. Sencer CDC Museum. A uniquely carved, wooden figure, it is adorned with layers of symbolic 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
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Copyright Restrictions: None - This image is in the public domain and thus free of any copyright restrictions.