Pair of door panels and a lintel

Yoruba people, Nigeria
About AD 1910-14

These door panels and lintel were carved for the royal palace at Ikere in Nigeria. They seem to commemorate the Ogoga (king) receiving the British administrator, Captain Ambrose, for the first time in 1901.

Ambrose is shown seated in a hammock on the right panel. Around him are soldiers, shackled prisoners and porters carrying boxes of cowrie shells, collected as taxes. A second British official, depicted on horseback above Captain Ambrose, has been identified as Major Reeve-Tucker, appointed first travelling commissioner for Ondo province at the turn of the nineteenth century. The dignified figure of the Ogoga sits on a European-style chair on the left panel. His senior wife stands directly behind him; other wives and children, palace officials and slaves are shown above and below. The lintel shows birds attacking the eyes of human faces. This human sacrifice was thought to be essential in the worship of certain gods.

The panel was carved by Olowe of Ise (about 1875-1938), a celebrated artist who created sculptures for royal patrons. He was locally renowned at the time and today is regarded by many as one of the most significant Yoruba artists of the twentieth century. He introduced innovative techniques that emphasized texture and movement: his figures were invariably carved in extremely high relief, with long angular bodies and a bold use of colour. Heads are often turned towards the viewer while legs are carved to suggest movement.

The door panels and lintel were chosen for display in 1924 at the British Empire exhibition at Wembley, London. The Ogoga refused to sell them to the British Museum but agreed to exchange them for a British carved throne. Olowe was subsequently commissioned to carve a replacement door for the Ogoga's palace.

Find in the collection online

Pair of door panels and a lintel

Lintel

  • Door panels

    Door panels

 

More information

Bibliography

R. A. Walker, Olowe of Ise: a Yoruba sculpto (Washington D.C., Smithsonian Institution Press, 1998)

Dimensions

Length: 127.000 cm (lintel)
Width: 46.000 cm (lintel)
Height: 215.000 cm (doors)
Width: 46.000 cm (lintel)

Museum number

AOA Africa 1979 Af1.4546a-c

EAF26653;EAF27913;EAF28042

Location

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