Ogboni staff

Accession Number

Ogboni staff


Artist Nationality
Yoruba (culture or style)

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
brass and iron

30 5/16 in x 2 3/4 in x 2 3/8 in (77 cm x 7 cm x 6 cm);30 5/16 in x 2 3/4 in x 2 3/8 in (77 cm x 7 cm x 6 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of Margaret H. and Albert J. Coudron

Subject matter
The Ogboni society (also known as the Oshugbo society among Ijebu Yoruba peoples) is a council made up of male and female elders proven to have high integrity and mature judgement. In precolonial times, and to a lesser extent today, this council fulfilled a number of political, judicial and spiritual functions, including the selection and removal of kings and punishment of serious offenders. The female figure with her beard represents not only the old age, experience, and wisdom of Ogboni society members but the male/female duality necessary for the community to prosper and care for ile, the earth. The staff is an emblem of membership in the Ogboni society of the Yoruba peoples of southwestern Nigeria; the gesture of the hands made by the figurine on top shows the way members greet each other (with fists clenched, left hand over the right: representing the importance of sacred, spiritual matters).

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.
Lawal, Babatunde. 2012. Visions of Africa: Yoruba. Milan: 5 Continents Editions.

Physical Description
Kneeling brass female figure atop an iron staff. The eyes protrude and the mouth is straight. On the forehead are two crescent shapes and the figure also has a beard. The figure is elaborately decorated, with a necklace, cylindrical headdress, and circular discs hanging from the back of the head. There are two larger spiral motifs on the sides of the body and the hands are held in closed fists in front of the body, the left hand on top of the right.

Primary Object Classification
Costume and Costume Accessories

Primary Object Type

Collection Area

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
ceremonial objects
ceremonial staffs
communication (function)

& Author Notes

Web Use Permitted