Accession Number



Artist Nationality
Yoruba (culture or style)

Object Creation Date
circa 1890-1920

Medium & Support

11 9/16 in x 8 7/8 in x 9 1/8 in (29.37 cm x 22.54 cm x 23.18 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of Dr. James and Vivian Curtis

Subject matter
This clay Yoruba vessel could refer to various orisas (gods), but it is not clear which orisa it may be. There is a possibility this object may be a shrine to the orisa Osun, the goddess of the river by the same name. During the festival for Osun, vessels (perhaps like this one) were filled with the river water, believed to have medicinal qualities. It is also possible that this vessel may represent Eshu (also called Eshu-Elegba or Eshu-Elegbara), the trickster orisa and messenger to other gods. As clay was one of the orisa's most important symbols, this clay vessel may represent him. The eyes and mouth also appear similar to Afro-Atlantic depictions of Eshu in the Caribbean and Latin America, which used cowrie shells and clay.  

References Cited: 
Berzock, Kathleen Bickford. 2007. "A Curator's Perspective." African Arts: Vol. 40, No. 1, Ceramic Arts in Africa, pp. 10-13. 
Drewal, Henry John, John Pemberton and Rowland O. Abiodun. 1989. Yoruba: Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought. New York: Center for African Art.
Thompson, Robert Farris. 1983. Flash of the Spirit: African and Afro-American Art and Philosophy. New York: Random House.

Physical Description
Clay vessel with a rounded bottom and a tall neck and handle. The bottom part of the vessel and handle are decorated with small holes and geometric patterns. The neck of the vessel is decorated with a face on both sides. The lips appear to be pursed and the eyes appear to be closed. The  half-circle ears stick out from the top of the neck, just below the rim of the vessel. On each cheek there are three horizontal marks with small holes. 

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type

Collection Area

If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form. Keywords
ceremonial vessels
personal shrines
pottery (visual works)

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