By Christopher D. Roy
University of Iowa

NigeriaIgbo peoples

Ikenga (shrine figure)

Wood, sacrificial materials

H. 48.9 cm (19 1/4")

University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection, X1986.162


Among the Igbo people, each adult male owned a shrine dedicated to his own personal ambition, ability, and strength. These were called ikenga, and the owner regularly offered prayers and sacrifices of gin, egg, and kola nut to the spirit of the ikenga. This small, simple example includes on its face the ichi (scars) that represent membership in a prestigious and expensive titled society. The horns that project upwards are ancient symbols of aggressiveness and ambition.