Accession Number



Artist Nationality
Yoruba (culture or style)

Object Creation Date
late 20th century

Medium & Support
wood, string and beads

12 ⅝ in x 2 ½ in x 2 9/10 in (32 cm x 6.3 cm x 7.4 cm);11 4/5 in x 2 3/16 in x 2 3/16 in (30 cm x 5.5 cm x 5.5 cm)

Credit Line
Gift and partial purchase from the estate of Kurt Delbanco in honor of Nicholas Delbanco

Subject matter
Eshu, also known as Elegba or Elegbara, is the Yoruba orisa (god) known for his contradictory nature. Often called the 'trickster' god, Eshu has been associated with crossroads, markets, and Ifa divination, all places where one's fortune can rapidly change. He also acts as a messenger between humans and other orisas. A staff such as this one would have been held by a dancer during events to celebrate Eshu. The projection from the top of the figure's head, a curved, blade-like protrusion, represents the power of Eshu. As the head, or ori, is the source of a person's life force, or ase, the projection physically connects the world of the living with the spirit world, as Eshu is the messenger between humans and Yoruba gods, or orisas

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.
Thompson, Robert Farris. 1983. Flash of the Spirit: African and Afro-American Art and Philosophy. New York: Random House.

Physical Description
A hand-held staff with a short cylindrical handle, topped by a kneeling female figure. The figure is holding two rectangular objects in both hands and is wearing a string of beads around her neck. The hair is in a tri-lobal shape with a curved protrusion at the top. A portion of the protrusion may have been broken off.  

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type

Collection Area

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communication (function)
order (metaphysical concept)

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