Yoruba Ogboni Dignitary's Door, Western Nigeria
height 50in (129.5cm)
Arnett Collection, Atlanta, Georgia
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Published and Exhibited:
African Artistry: Technique and Aesthetics in Yoruba Sculpture, The High Museum of Art, Atlanta, April 17 May 25, 1980 (Fig. 7. Door (Ilekin). Wood, 50" high, Oyo, Osogbo/Illobu/Erin area.)
Henry Drewal comments, "This and the two preceding decorated doors (5 and 6), while by different hands, are from the same region. The diamond or starred-diamond format of the eye which characterizes this regional style, is repeated rhythmically here in the incised patterns above and below the central figures, in the shape of the heads, and in the space enclosed by the figures' interlocking arms. Bold and simple low-relief images seem to be preferred in this area." (Drewal: 1980, p. 26)
A Yoruba Ogboni Society interior entrance door carved in high relief with representation of male and female figures. Carved doors are commissioned by a person of high status, such as a chief, elder or priest to denote the entrance to a special room restricted to important personages or activities. The abstracted male and female images may refer to the connected male and female Edan bronze figures worn by the elders of the Ogboni society in performance of their ritually related duties. The stylized abstract figures on these rare doors would be found in the Yoruba areas of Oyo, Oshogbo and Illobu, culturally significant regions of the Yoruba heartland. The composition of this door differs from the Ekiti, Ife and Ijebu areas where the figures tend to be smaller and closer together and refer to narratives. The interlaced woven styled designs are especially powerful here possibly referring to the important deliberations of the elders of the Ogboni Society within. Traces of old encrusted sacrificial substances give the door a rich dark surface.