By William Dewey
Pennsylvania State University (formerly University of Iowa)

Nigeria; Esie artist



H. 78 cm (30 11/16”)

National Museum, Lagos, Nigeria, H348

Photo by Dirk Bakker


This seated figure, carved of soapstone, is one of more than a thousand similar figures or fragments (most purposefully defaced at some point) found in the town of Esie. The figures are from one to two feet tall, making this one, of about thirty inches, taller than average. Most of the figures are seated. The elaborate coiffure and jewelry indicate that someone of status is depicted. The knife or sword on the lap is a common accoutrement. During this century a three-day festival has been held for the images every March or April, when offerings were presented to the largest image, designated as the king. The real King of Esie was not allowed to see the figures. It is estimated that they date from the 12th to 15th centuries C.E. (A.D.) and were perhaps associated with the nearby ancient Yoruba kingdom of Oba (Pemberton 1989).