Kneeling female figure with bowl and figures


Adeshina Family Workshop ( Nigerian )

Yoruba peoples
Late 19th–early 20th century
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General Description

Respectfully kneeling and holding a bowl, this type of female figure represents an olumeye, "one who knows honor." She wears an intricately braided irun agogo hairstyle that was worn by recent brides and priestesses devoted to particular orishas (deities). Her face and body are elaborately decorated with scarification. She is adorned with triangular amulets carved in relief on her chest and back as protection against malevolent forces. The small figures carved in high relief on her upper arms may represent deceased twins (ibeji). The bowl itself is decorated with a human face. In the past, such beautiful offering bowls were found in royal palaces or shrines, where they presented gifts of kola nuts or some precious item to special visitors.

Considerably smaller than the majority of olumeye, this one may have served as a shrine object. A symbolic offering to a deity would have been placed in the bowl.

Excerpt from

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

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