Unusual Polychromed, Wooden Shango Staff
Yoruba People, Nigeria
This Yoruba Shango wand is well carved, has a fine patina with very obvious age, and is unusual for its form.
Figures such as the example here were carved for use in rituals. It has a handgrip towards its base so that it could be carried with greater ease during a procession.
The figure is male. He has an almond-shaped head, bulging eyes and lips, prominent scarrification on his cheeks and forehead, and an elongated neck. Half his head is decorated with plaited hair; the other half is shaved.
He wears a tunic and short trousers. A dilly bag for carrying ritual herbs is slung over his right shoulder.
His left hand is long missing (the break itself has a good patina suggesting that the wand continued to be ritually used), but in his right hand he holds a mace with a spherical head. Very unusually, this is mirrored by a prominent solid sphere that emerges from his head. Coloured with Rickett’s Blue, most probably this represents the world, or even the cosmos.
Shango is the Yoruba god of thunder and the ancestor of the Yoruba people. He is the son of Yemaja the mother goddess and protector of birth.
The wand here has a lovely, sculptural property, and stands upright on a small, custom-made stand.
Fagg, W., J. Pemberton III & B. Holcombe, Yoruba: Sculpture of West Africa, Collins, 1982.
private collection, UK
Inventory no.: 2483