By Carla Herling
Drake University (formerly University of Iowa)

Nigeria; Yoruba peoples

Mother and child for Shango


H. 43 cm (16 15/16") 

Seattle Art Museum, Gift of Katherine White and the Boeing Company, 81.17.594

The Yoruba people of southwest Nigeria also placed female figures on shrines to encourage fertility.  A large figure holding a bowl kneels with respect to the god or Orisha in whose shrine she appears.  She holds a bowl before her, offering small cakes of deep-fried plantain or wheat flour.  Such figures represent a devotee of the god, not the god itself.  She bears the signs of fertility and bounty: full breasts, rings of fat around the neck, and an infant on the back.  The figures may also be carried on the head by women in religious festivals, when followers of the religious association parade through the streets of the city or town.  This figure was placed in a shrine to Shango, the god who destroys with lightning and thunder and who answers women’s prayers for children. She carries the twin axe blades of Shango balanced on her head.