Yoruba Shango Figure – Nigeria

The Yoruba religious world recognizes a pantheon of deities called orisha, whose identities and attributes are embodied in ritual objects. Priests and adherents of the widespread cult of Shango, the fiery god of thunder and lightning, commission dance staffs (ose Shango) to invoke his striking power and protection. This figure, with surfaces and features thoroughly smoothed with age and use, represents a female devotee of Shango. The dramatic double axe form atop the figure’s head is the primary symbol associated with Shango, reflecting the power of the violent storm and his ability to hurl thunder celts into the community. The figure wears a lip plug, the practice of which began to decline in the late 19th century, indicating this is an early object.

Late 19th century
19" h  7 1/4" w
Provenance: Ex Ernst Anspach; private US collection
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