The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Art from the Ijo Spirit World

by Martha G. Anderson
Alfred University

Shrine for the water spirit Adumu. Azuzama, Bassan clan. Central Ijo artist, Nigeria, 1978. Photo by Martha G. Anderson.


Adumu's status as head of the water spirits on both sides of the Nun River suggests that the Ijo have revered him for many centuries.  As an aspect of the python, he operates on both land and water, but shrines represent him as a water man.  His preference for carved images sets Adumu apart from other water spirits; interestingly, the Central Ijo serve him the same types of 'imported' foods and drinks requested by other water spirits, but describe him as very dark skinned.  Adumu typically appears with his canoe and fishing gear, suggesting that his current role as the patron of traders may have evolved from an original one as the patron of fishermen.  However, some of the paddles and spears in this shrine, as well as a staff and stool configuration, represent spirits.  Adumu's wife also accompanies him, because an Ijo man must marry and produce children to be considered an adult.