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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)


Revolving serpents on a stick

Ritual healers of the Zulu carry staffs as steadfast companions and as divining rods. Serpent staffs like this had a mesmerizing effect when handled carefully: drawing one's hands down the surface over the raised spirals caused it to revolve, making the staff appear to take on a life of its own. Extremely dense wood is chosen to carve such staffs, which are richly embellished with detailed loops of snake bodies. In South Africa, snakes are treated with respect-regarded as messengers who are able to move from beneath the ground where the ancestors lie, then find their way through air and water, as they move among the branches of trees and swim with ease.

80 1/2 in. (204.5 cm)
Diam.: 7 1/2 in.
Gift of Katherine White and the Boeing Company
Not currently on view


Exhibition HistorySeattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, The Untold Story, November 14, 2003 - November 14, 2004

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, "The Museum: Mixed Metaphors", Anne Gerber Exhibition: Fred Wilson, January 28 - June 13, 1993 (01/28/1993 - 06/13/1993)

Seattle Art Museum acknowledges that we are on the traditional homelands of the Duwamish and the customary territories of the Suquamish and Muckleshoot Peoples. As a cultural and educational institution, we honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future. We also acknowledge the urban Native peoples from many Nations who call Seattle their home.