H x W x D: 68.3 x 57.2 x 39.6 cm (26 7/8 x 22 1/2 x 15 9/16 in.)
Early-mid 20th century
This box features symbols and objects associated with the divine power of kings and the ancestral authority of the Ogboni society. ("Ogboni" is used among the Egba group of the Yoruba peoples, in preference to "Oshugbo," used in the east among the Ijebu region Yoruba.) The bird atop the crown and the flanking bird figures refer to royal control of spiritual powers. On the sides of the box are representations of linked copper-alloy staffs. These staffs (edan ogboni or edan oshugbo) are emblems of Ogboni membership and judicial powers and evoke the pairing of men and women. They act as symbolic locks securing the box. The cloth (aso olona) carved over the shoulder of the central figure is also associated with membership.The interlace motif on the sides of the box is a traditional design associated with rulers and objects of authority and ritual.
The box is also a testament to change within a traditional culture with its use of mirrors, commercial paint and nailed construction (rather than being carved in one piece). "Oluwo" written on the front of the box (along with a now illegible word or name) refers to the highest Ogboni title. The use of the written words and the European-style crown atop the hat's brim are new additions to the iconography of power and status.
Based on the style of the box and comparison to other works by the same hand in various collections, this box can be attributed to the workshop of Adugbologe, possibly his children. Ojerinde died circa 1914 or before WWI. Oniyide dates 1875-1949.
"Adugbologe who shines like the new moon. There is no place where he is not known on earth."
Rectangular box with lid and feet with seperately carved figures of standing male flanked by 2 kneeling attendants and 2 white birds on the lid. The sides of the box are covered in a carved interlace pattern with a mirror centered on each side. Around each mirror are relief depictions of edan ogboni staffs, with a linking chain extending onto the lid. Box is painted in red, yellow, black and brown.
Lawrence Gussman, New York, after 1956 to 1972
Images of Power and Identity, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., February 5-September 29, 1998, gallery 4
African Art in Color, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., May 17-October 9, 1983
Curnow, Kathy. 2014. At Home in Africa: Design, Beauty, and Pleasing Irregularity in Domestic Settings. Cleveland: The Galleries at Cleveland State University.
Slogar, Christopher. 2002. "Carved Ogboni figures from Abeokuta, Nigeria." African Arts 35 (4), pp. 14-26, 91-92.