Statue of Shapona West African god of smallpox
Shapona, West African god of smallpox. It is part of the CDC’s Global Health Odyssey (GHO) collection of artifacts, created by a traditional healer for 1969 conference of international health experts. It is a unique carved wooden figure upon which are layered meaningful objects such as monkey skulls, cowrie shells, and nails. Smallpox was thought to be an indication of “divine displeasure,” and formal worship of Shapona was highly controlled by specific priests in charge of shrines to the god. People believed that if angered, the priests were believed capable of causing smallpox outbreaks themselves. Although the British colonial rulers banned the worship of Shapona in 1907 because they suspected the priests of deliberately spreading smallpox, the god continued to be worshipped. In the 1960s and 1970s, WHO and CDC vaccination teams in Dahomey, Togo, and western Nigeria encountered some cultural resistance from Shapona worshippers who thought they were being asked to make war on one of their own deities. Ultimately, these cultural challenges were met in this part of Africa as well as other parts of the world. In 1978 the World Health Organization officially declared that smallpox had been eradicated. Photo date: 2005.
Image ID: 000525
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Image size: 2.1 Mpixels (6.13 MB uncompressed) - 1190x1800 pixels (3.9x6.0 in / 10.1x15.2 cm at 300 ppi)