Kneeling female figure with bowl (olumeye)


Olowe of Ise ( Nigerian, 1875 - 1938 )

Yoruba peoples
c. 1910–c. 1938
more object details

General Description

This female figure holds a large lidded bowl with the aid of kneeling female caryatids. She celebrates Yoruba ideals of feminine beauty: an elaborate hairstyle, an elongated neck, lineage marks on her face, and a gap between her two front teeth. She wears waist beads like a young girl and has the dorsal scarification of an engaged woman.

An olumeye is used to offer kola nuts to visitors or deities in a hospitality ritual. The lidded bowls of conventional examples are carved in the form of a fowl, a sacrificial animal. Olowe’s unique approach is to represent the Yoruba cosmos, which is often visualized as a spherical gourd divided into_ aye_ and orun, the upper and lower realms, and covered with symbolic patterns.

An unusual feature of Olowe’s colorful olumeye is a free-standing human head within the “cage” of female figures, possibly representing a sacrificial victim. It is impossible to remove it from the cage.

Excerpt from

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

Related Multimedia

Collections smARTphone video; Roz Walker discusses Kneeling female figure with bowl (olumeye) by Olowe of Ise (DMA Collection 2004.16.McD)
Learn about Olowe of Ise (c. 1875–1938).
Listen to a poem about Olowe of Ise.
Learn about the Yoruba peoples.
Collections smartphone audio about the artist Olowe of Ise (Nigerian, Yoruba, c. 1875-1938), Kneeling female figure with bowl (olumeye), 2004.16.MCD, DMA Collection
Collections smartphone audio related to Kneeling female figure with bowl (olumeye) by Olowe of Ise (Nigerian, Yoruba, c. 1875-1938); 2004.16.MCD, DMA Collection
reading of and excerpt of a poem of praise for Olowe of Ise; related to DMA collection object Kneeling female figure with bowl (olumeye), 2004.16.McD; Created by Antenna?