Kneeling female figure with bowl (olumeye)
Olowe of Ise ( Nigerian, 1875 - 1938 )
- Yoruba peoples
- c. 1910–c. 1938
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.
Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, Arts of Africa, 2015.