Approx. 11 x 7 inches
Potter Ben Watford's "African-American Grave Markers” (face jugs) seek to present and preserve a facet of the African-American experience. Watford’s face jugs stand ready to give evil spirits the heebie-jeebies. Watford describes them as “beautifully ugly,” but the appearance of the jugs had a purpose for early African-Americans.
Enslaved Africans coming into America from the Caribbean were steeped in Voodoo, a blend of African beliefs and Christianity that recognized heaven but also recognized evil spirits that could prevent someone’s entrance into heaven. Enslaved persons were denied the right to place headstones on the graves of their dead.
At this time, artisan enslaved persons working in the Edgefield Potteries in South Carolina began creating face jugs in their spare time. The jugs had to be small to fit in the kiln between pots that the factory owner intended to sell. These jugs could be placed at the graves of enslaved persons to serve both as markers and to scare away evil spirits, allowing the soul to enter heaven. Thus, “the uglier, the better,” says Watford.