Brass female figure, kneeling with buttocks on the heels, atop an iron staff. The protruding eyes, nose, and mouth convey a serene, dignified and somewhat withdrawn look. The figure has a beard around the face; she wears ornamentation in small holes atop the ears, cone-shaped headgear, and an elaborate necklace; there is a small spiral motif on the forehead, and two larger spiral motifs on the sides of the body. The hands are held in closed fists in front of the body, the left hand on top of the right.
Artist Unknown, African, Yoruba Peoples Nigeria
The anthropomorphic brass staffs and figures of the Ogboni society usually come in male-female pairs and are called "Edan." This example is female, as indicated by the breasts and genitals. Female "edan" have beards, too, like their male counterparts-- the beard signifying old age, experience, and wisdom. The staff is an emblem of membership in the Ogboni society of the Yoruba peoples of southwestern Nigeria; the gesture of the hands made by the figurine on top shows the way members greet each other (with fists clenched, left hand over the right: representing the supremacy of the earth). The Ogboni society (also called the Oshugbo society) is a council made up of male and female elders proven to have high integrity and mature judgement. In precolonial times, and to a lesser extent today, this council fulfilled a number of political, judicial and spiritual functions, including the selection and removal of kings and punishment of serious offenders.
Gift of Margaret H. and Albert J. Coudron
Monday, June 5, 2023
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