The Yoruba are distributed throughout the Yoruba-speaking lands in Nigeria, Benin/Dahomey and even in Ghana. Amongst their deities is "ESHU", one of their three most important cults (i.e. Shango, Eshu, Ibedji). Eshu is one of the 'orishas' (messenger) of 'olorum' (the Supreme God). As the latter is never directly worshipped this is done by proxy via the messenger. Among the orishas, Eshu is the only one represented in sculptural form. She/he represents the uncertainty principle, the trickster and mischief maker, the enfant terrible of mankind. Indigenous name: Ogo Elegba

Kneeling males and females figurines represent Eshu, either as standing figures or heads only. Primarily he/she is symbolised by a long tailed head dress in the shape of a cap or hook. It is painted white, a sacred colour. The figure can be rubbed with indigo. A breast holding female appears to be unusual. They are more often found on Shango staffs, where they represent devotees of the cult. This may also apply to the type of dance staff shown here.


This beautiful piece was acquired in 1982 by private sale from an American through a dealer contact in London. This type of staff is from the Egbado region in the South Western corner of Yorubaland in Nigeria; it may actually be from the village of Ilaro.