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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Yoruba Onile Sculptures : Yoruba Lead Onile Sculpture of a Man
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Yoruba Lead Onile Sculpture of a Man - PF.4754
Origin: Southwestern Nigeria
Circa: 17 th Century AD to 19 th Century AD
Dimensions: 9.5" (24.1cm) high x 2.5" (6.4cm) wide
Collection: African Art
Medium: Lead

Location: United States
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The Osugbo is a society of male and female elders who are responsible for the selection, installation, and burial of kings. They also render judgment and stipulate punishment in cases of serious crimes, even including the removal of rulers. The main symbols of the Osugbo are paired male and female figures of brass or lead known as edan, and the free-standing figures called onile, which means "Owner-of-the-House". One pair of onile serves an entire lodge symbolizing the original progenitors, male and female members of the Osugbo, and by extension the entire community.

This fantastic male onile is a perfect example of such figures. His facial features include the distinctive bulging eyes which have the marvelous effect of seeming to look out and inwards at the same time. His limbs are elongated stylistically in order to accommodate the required pose and gesture. The legs wrap around the back as if elastic, yet seem quite natural; as do the very long arms, twisting upwards so the fingers rest reverentially just below the breasts. Onile always wear some sort of head gear, either single or double horns or a type of cap. This one is a jaunty flopping variety with attractive stripes along the central portion. The most significant element is the snake 'wrap' he wears around his shoulders, with two large snake heads hanging over his upper arms and criss-crossed over his back. Combined with his exposed penis this suggests a fertility aspect to the figure. Such statues were considered sacred embodying magical powers, dignity and moral strength-- qualities the members of the Osugbo wished to possess.
- (PF.4754)


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