African art > African statues : tribal fetish, maternity > Statue Urhobo
Urhobo janiform reliquary statue (N° 17001)
This statue with a heavily damaged base and top represents a back-to-back couple, sharing common lower limbs. Glorifying ancestors, a cavity has been set up in the bust of the male figure to house a magical charge or relics. Remains of yellow, black and red ochre are still visible on the matte surface.
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The Urhobos , living near the northwest of the Niger Delta River, form the main ethnic group of the Delta State among the 36 states of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. They speak Urhobo, a language of the Niger-Congo group. Together with the Isoko whose art is close, they are collectively known as Sobo . Their large sculptures depicting the spirits of nature, edjo, or the founding ancestors of the clan, to whom sacrifices were offered, were grouped in shrines within the villages. They also produce figures similar to ikenga sasa s, ivwri, of a half-animal, half-human form. They personify male aggression and are intended for warriors and notables. However, after consultation with the soothsayer, young children can also wear miniature iphri in the form of geometric amulets, attached to the neck.
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