A Urhobo Eshe shrine post
Lot 2547
A Urhobo Eshe shrine post
US$ 100,000 - 120,000
£60,000 - 71,000
Auction Details
A Urhobo Eshe shrine post A Urhobo Eshe shrine post
Lot Details
A superb Urhobo Eshe shrine post
Nigeria, exceptional in its level of refinement, not often seen to this extent among the Urhobo canon of style. The superb monumental post comprising a seated ancestral figure with top-hat, the upper portion of the column bearing zoomorphic and human imagery.
height 80in


  • Exhibited:
    Governors State University, IL;, 2003; Krannert Art Museum, IL, 2003; Belger Art Foundation/University of Missouri-Kansas City, MO, 2004; Tall Grass Art Association, IL, 2005.
    Museum for African Art, New York. 2004
    Columbia Museum of Art, South Carolina. 2004
    National Museum of African Art, Washington, DC. 2005

    Field Photo – Foss, P., “Urhobo statuary for spirits and ancestors”. African arts Vol. IX, 4. UCLA 1976. Ill. 12.

    Bourgeois and Rodolitz, REMNANTS OF RITUAL: SELECTIONS FROM THE GELBARD COLLECTION OF AFRICAN ART, Ethnos, New York, 2003, p.21, fig.48a & 48b & p.XV, ill.1 (field photo)

    Foss, P. Where Gods and Mortals Meet.,Museum of African Art; 2004. Cat. 17.

    The Urhobo of Nigeria live among the rivers of the Niger delta. The large figural art of the Urhobo is chiefly related to depicting aggressive and courageous ancestors (or lineage founders) or specific village spirits. Founding ancestors known as Eshe are often conceived as a single, central post in the lineage meeting house. In the case of the Gelbard example, the post is carved to depict the founding lineage ancestor. This particular post represents Ovwha, who, according to oral tradition, was one of a group of “exceptionally influential traders who attained immense success in the palm oil trade.” [Foss, 1976. 20] Originally owned by the Agbarho clan in Orherhe Village, this post, described by Foss as “the largest and ichnographically most complex,” was created around 1890. The figure of Ovwha holds a ritual knife in one hand, and a prestige cup in the other and is seated beneath a large upper section, depicting snakes, a crocodile and a female figure; each having esoteric meaning to the elders of the clan. [Foss, ibid.] Within the corpus of Urhobo figural carving, this post remains one of the finest, most perfectly-conceived and delicately rendered images of a powerful and semi-mythical ancestor.