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Shrine Object

Unidentified Yoruba artist
first half 20th century
Wood, leather, cowrie shells, glass beads, fiber, metal bells
Associated with
Western Africa and the Guinea Coast, Nigeria, Africa
Current Location
On View, Gallery 117
overall height: 27 in. (68.6 cm)
height of figures: 9 3/4 in. (24.8 cm)
Credit Line
Gift of Dr. William Harvey
Public Domain
Object Number
These figures, one male and one female, suggest the Yoruba god Eshu’s ability to bring opposites and complementary entities together. Eshu is known as the messenger between this world and the spiritual realm of the "orishas" and ancestors. The figure pair also emphasizes the duality inherent in Eshu’s personality. Known as a trickster, Eshu represents unpredictability and uncertainty in the universe. When this object was not set up as a shrine dedicated to the god, a devotee danced with it, activating its dangling bells and shells, at Eshu festivals held in the marketplace. Eshu is also considered the guardian of the markets and crossroads.
Alexander-Suggs Gallery, St. Louis, MO, USA

- 1983
Dr. William Harvey, St. Louis, MO

1983 -
Saint Louis Art Museum, given by Dr. William Harvey [2]

[1] A donor information form signed by William M. Harvey on February 21, 1983 states this object was previously owned by Alexander-Suggs Gallery [SLAM document files].

[2] A letter dated March 3, 1983 from John W. Nunley of the Saint Louis Art Museum to Dr. William M. Harvey acknowledges the gift of this object [SLAM document files]. Minutes of the Acquisitions and Loans Committee of the Board of Trustees, Saint Louis Art Museum, February 23, 1983.
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