Yoruba Sculpture of a Kneeling Man - PF.6136
Origin: Nigeria
Circa: 16 th Century AD to 19 th Century AD
Dimensions: 14.75" (37.5cm) high
Collection: African
Style: Yoruba
Medium: Bronze


The Yoruba people live in Nigeria and Benin, numbering nearly 24 million people. Beginning around 1000 A.D., the Yoruba built a thriving network of cities and trading routes. Many of those cities survive today, and much of the original societal structure is still preserved. Yoruba kings, known as “Oba,” are still considered sacred, and continue to live in palaces in the center of town, surrounded by the residences of their lesser chiefs. Echoes of the Yoruba can even be felt in the Americas in the form of Santeria. This religious tradition evolved in Cuba when the ritual practices of imported Yoruba slaves mixed with Christian theology of the new world. Santeria is still practiced today in many parts of the new world, and still retains its recognizable Yoruba origins.

Who might this mysterious kneeling figure represent? He wears an elaborately beaded belt, multiple bracelets, and a woven cloth hung over his shoulder. These attributes, as well as his small headdress, convey the impression of a royal dignitary. Perhaps this figure is kneeling in reverence to an Oba, now vanished. Surely this posture is one of adoration and adulation. The large, bulging eyes are characteristic features of the Yoruba style. This man holds his hands together in front of his chest, seemingly holding a missing object, the origins and form of which we can only guess. Might he be engaged in a religious ceremony, the echoes of which might still survive on our shores in Santeria rituals? While this sculpture poses more questions than we are able to answer, the astounding beauty of the work remains, reflecting the artistic and cultural glories of the Yoruba Kingdom. - (PF.6136)



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