Important Yoruba Female Ogboni Shrine Figure/Earth Spirit, Ijebu or Owu Region, Nigeria
Lot 74
Important Yoruba Female Ogboni Shrine Figure/Earth Spirit, Ijebu or Owu Region, Nigeria
US$ 180,000 - 220,000
€ 150,000 - 180,000

African and Oceanic Art

5 Dec 2017, 13:00 PST

Los Angeles

Lot Details
Important Yoruba Female Ogboni Shrine Figure/Earth Spirit, Ijebu or Owu Region, Nigeria Important Yoruba Female Ogboni Shrine Figure/Earth Spirit, Ijebu or Owu Region, Nigeria Important Yoruba Female Ogboni Shrine Figure/Earth Spirit, Ijebu or Owu Region, Nigeria Important Yoruba Female Ogboni Shrine Figure/Earth Spirit, Ijebu or Owu Region, Nigeria
Important Yoruba Female Ogboni Shrine Figure/Earth Spirit, Ijebu or Owu Region, Nigeria
onile
Bronze
height 25 1/2in (64.8cm)

Provenance
Charles Wentinck, France
Christie's London, June 17, 1980 (lot 236)
Christie's New York, November 20, 1997 (lot 125)
Private American Collection

Exhibited
Zürich, Die Kunst von Schwarz Afrika, Kunsthaus, October 31, 1970 - January 17, 1971
Essen, Germany, Afrikanische Kunstwerke. Kulturen am Niger, Villa Hügel, March 25 - June 13, 1971
The Hague, the Netherlands, Kunst uit Afrika-Rond de Niger de Machtige River, Haags Gemeentemuseum, July 3 - September 5, 1971
Berg en Dal, the Netherlands, Het Geheime Ogboni Genootschap. Bronzen uit Zuidwest Nigeria, Afrika Museum, April 10 - August 1, 1976

Published
Bassani, E., and Frank Willet, One Hundred Notes on Nigerian Art from Christie's Catalogues 1974 - 1990, Milan: Quaderni Poro No. 7, 1991, plate 60
Dobbelmann, Dr. Theo A. M. H., Het geheime Ogboni-genootschap. Bronzen uit Zuidwest Nigeria, Berg en Dal: Afrika Museum, 1976, plate 109
Leuzinger, Elsy, Kunst uit Afrika: Rond de Niger - De Machtige Rivier, The Hague: Haags Gemeentemuseum, 1971, no. L11
Leuzinger, Elsy, Kunsthaus Zürich: Die Kunst von Schwarz-Afrika, Zurich: Kunsthaus, 1970, pp. 178, no. L11

Yale University Art Gallery, van Rijn African Art Archive No. 0023326

According to Elsy Leuzinger, "The cult objects of the Ogboni society occupy a special position. They are not masks or ancestor figures, but the large wooden agba drums and smaller statuettes, objects and ornaments of brass. So far as one can work out from the secrets of the society, they are related to the cult of the earth spirit Onile. It is possible that the relief figure with the catfish-legs on the agba drums represent this Onile. When the agba drum sounds to call the members of the society together, everyone is seized with terror, because the call always means that a sentence of death is to be passed, usually as a punishment for the betrayal of the secrets of the society. The blood of the sacrifice used to be poured over the drum. At the initiation of a member of the Ogboni society the high priest laid an edan in his hand with an injunction to keep silence. The edan is a pair of figures in brass on an iron staff, which are joined together by chains: they are perhaps Ogboni and his wife Erolu. The large edan always remain hidden in the shrine, stuck into the earth or laid on the ground; smaller ones--e.g. pairs of heads with chains--are used as messenger staffs and give protection against the activities of witches.

In the Ogboni sanctuary there is also a larger figure of brass with protruding eyes and a horn-like hair-style. Its hands form the Ogboni greeting. Morton Williams investigated its secrets and learned that it was Ajagbo, a terrible Alafin of Oyo, who became a revenging spirit and is invoked by the Ogboni society when a divine sentence of death has to be passed. Ajagbo is identified with Onile, the earth spirit.

The style of works in metal and ivory is very different from the style of carving in the Yoruba country. This phenomenon is no doubt to be explained by its completely different function." (The Art of Black Africa, translated by R.A. Wilson, the New York Graphic Society, New York, 1972, pp 174-176.)
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