Shango is the Yoruba god of thunder and lightning, the double-axe motif atop this piece is a metaphor for the thunderbolt that Shango hurls down from the sky at those who do not respect him. Oshe Shango are dance wands (such as this piece) that Yoruba deities carry, cradle, wave, and thrust during dances in Shango’s honor. At times they are simply kept a reliquary on a shrine devoted to Shango. This elegant piece shows clear evidence of decades of handling, rubbing, and use. It is a very fine example with exceptionally detailed coiffure and worn facial features. A fine description is provided by Roberts in “A Sense of Wonder”: “Shango, the Yoruba god of thunder and lightning, provider of children and protector of twins, was the legendary fourth king of the powerful18th century Oyo Empire. After his death, Shango's supporters obtained powerful medicines to defend Shango's name, raise violent thunderstorms, and cause lightning to strike Shango's enemies. They demanded that Shango be recognized as a god. Fearing Shango's continued vengeance, prayers were said, shrines established, and priestesses initiated as mediators between Shango and his community. This Oshe Shango dance wand is one of the many art forms associated with the reverence of Shango.” Expertise: The word ‘Yoruba’ describes both a language and a tribe living across Nigeria and the Popular Republic of Benin, in an area of forest and savannah. Their origins can be traced back to the end of the first millennium like the civilization of Ife. Following the collapse of the Ife civilization, a number of kingdoms such as the Ijebu and the Oyo emerged. They, in turn, disintegrated during the 18th and 19th centuries, but were revived by the colonial powers at the end of the 19th century and today still form the political structure of the Yoruba people. The enormous scale of the slave trade in Nigeria contributed to the Diaspora of the Yoruba people and informed spiritual practices in countries such as Haiti (Ref: Bacquart, “Tribal Arts of Africa”; Beckwith and Fisher, “African Ceremonies”; Fagg, Pemberton and Holcombe, “Yoruba,” 1982). Yoruba culture and links to traditional Yoruba religion and belief systems are integrated heavily in an area that spans the Caribbean and Southern United States and Cuba, Brazil and Latin America, and throughout parts of Europe and Africa.
On a customised stand
- Peter and Monica Wengraf, Arcade Gallery, 1994, London / New York
- Harold Gray, Vermont, USA
- Renaud Riley, Brussels, Belgium
Literature: - Yoruba: Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought, Drewal, Pemberton III, Abiodun, Wardwell
- Yoruba: An Art of Life, Cooksey and Mato
- Ibeji: The Cult of Yoruba Twins, Chemeche