Altar figure

Carved figure of Eshu, a Yoruban orisha or primordial deity. He is kneeling, holding a staff in the form of a flute, and wearing an elaborate hairstyle.

The word ‘idol’ is painted down the bottom shaft of his flute. Early Bible translations into the Yoruba language lacked a word for the Devil, and so Eshu was used. However, Eshu’s role is to enforce the will of the Creator, and to punish those who do not acknowledge his power. He is a powerful trickster.

This is one of a pair of figures (male and female ’ossehine’ as Eshu Elegbare) which was said to have been ‘presented’ to the Rev. Henry Townsend by Oba Ogubona, a senior chief of Abeokuta, during a time of conversion to Christianity.

The other figure (female E608b) was stolen from RAMM in 1912 and is now in a private collection in the USA. Unfortunately, when stolen the female carving had its two projecting hair elements removed.

H.435 mm
Accession Loan No.
Collection Class
Religion and magic
Common Name
altar figure
Simple Name
Full Name
carved figure of Eshu (one of a pair)
whole height 435 mm
Cultural Group
Production Year High
Production Parish
Production Town
Production County
SW Nigeria
Production Country
Production Area Region
West Africa
Production Continent
Family Group

wood; iron
Function Name
cult object
Collection Area Region
Collection Continent

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