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Staff

Accession Number
1989/1.45

Title
Staff

Artist(s)
Yoruba

Artist Nationality
Yoruba (culture or style)

Object Creation Date
20th century

Medium & Support
iron, wood, and leather

Dimensions
57 in x 2 1/2 in x 2 1/2 in (144.78 cm x 6.35 cm x 6.35 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of Ousman Berette

Subject matter
The god, or orisa, Oko is the Yoruba deity of the farm, which is reflected in the staffs made to honor him, called opa orisa Oko. Made only in the town of Irawo, the staffs consisted of the metal melted down from farming tools like hoes, shovels, and knives. A blade-like bottom and a phallic top are usually separated by a square inscribed with a cross, with eyes above the cross and facial marks below it. This area of the staff is said to be face of Oko. Thought to bring wealth to his followers, the priestess responsible—called iyawo orisa Oko or "wives of orisa Oko"—would tie cowrie shells around the middle of the staff, seen as the face of Oko. Cowrie shells were used as currency among Yoruba peoples. When not in use, the staff would be kept in richly beaded cover called ewu opa orisa Oko

References Cited:
Drewal, Henry John, John Pemberton and Rowland O. Abiodun. 1989. Yoruba: Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought. New York: Center for African Art.
Pemberton, John. 2008. African Beaded Art: Power and Adornment. Northampton: Smith College Museum of Art. 

Physical Description
An iron staff consisting of a long rectangular section connected to a smaller triangular section by two small cylinders and a flat square. The square is decorated with an incised cross and the triangular section of the staff is decorated with interlace patterns. The top of the staff has broken off; it is made of wood and wrapped in strips of leather.

Primary Object Classification
Sculpture

Primary Object Type
staff

Collection Area
African

Rights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form. Keywords
agriculture
farming (function)
gods (dieties)
phallic
wealth
women (female humans)

& Author Notes

All Rights Reserved