Bowl with lid (opon igede)

Attributed to

Arowogun (Areogun) of Osi-ilorin ( African, 1880 - 1954 )

Yoruba peoples
c. 1920–1940
more object details

General Description

This sculpture is attributed to Arowogun, a celebrated master sculptor who was a contemporary of Olowe of Ise. Embellished bowls like this one were owned by rulers, successful ritual specialists, and prosperous families who could afford to commission artists like Arowogun to carve for them. His praise name, Areogun-yanna, means "one who gets money with the tools of Ogun and spends it liberally." Ogun, the Yoruba god of iron, is the "patron saint" of sculptors and blacksmiths.

This lidded bowl, which has three compartments, was used to store ritual paraphernalia. Both foreign and indigenous references are depicted on its surface. Foreigners include a turbaned Muslim chief riding a horse, carved in relief on the lid. Muslim traders from the north and Portuguese merchants introduced horses to sub-Saharan Africa many centuries ago. The Muslim horseman holds a rope tied around a captive in one hand and a weapon in the other, and may symbolize the slave raids that occurred during the 19th century. Also depicted are a uniformed soldier displaying an imported firearm and a British official wearing a pith helmet and riding a motorcycle.

Among the indigenous references portrayed on the lid are a priest of the healing deity Osanyin. In one hand he holds a staff surmounted by a bird and in the other a medicine horn; he is flanked by attendants or clients. A standing male figure on the bowl represents either a priest or devotee of Shango, the god of thunder and lightning. He carries a dance staff (oshe Shango) in one hand and a gourd rattle (shekere) in the other. Other figures include musicians playing a pressure drum and a flute and a soldier brandishing bladed weapons. The visual references to the presence of North African Muslims and Europeans on the lid indicate the Yoruba's changed world, but those on the bowl suggest that indigenous religion and customs still prevailed.

Adapted from

  • Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, Arts of Africa, 2015.

  • Roslyn A. Walker, The Arts of Africa at the Dallas Museum of Art (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009), 276-277.