Collection online


  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Male figure (possibly representing Boinayel the Rain Giver) made of wood.

  • Ethnic name

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 15thC(late) (?)
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 104 centimetres
    • Width: 52 centimetres
    • Depth: 15 centimetres
  • Curator's comments

    Referred to in Archaeologia,1803 as being exhibited to the Society by Rebello on 11/4/1799, having been found in a cave in June,1792. Method of acquisition by BM currently unknown. (AMD,8/1993). See Fagg, Tribal Image, pl.3.McEwan 2009, p.27
    This imposing Taino sculpture stands in a rigid frontal pose of hallucinogenic possession, signalled by the grimacing teeth and tears streaming down his cheeks. The ostentatious display of the sexual organs, emphasized by the hands resting on the hips, underlines its aggressive marculinity. The bulging calves are an admired manifestation of strength and durability produced by wearing ligatures bound beneath the knees and aroud the ankles.
    Like most of the other surviving wooden objects, it is carved from the dense, black tropical hardwood, guayacan (Guaiacum officinale L.). The prepared surface was polished with rounded river pebbles to bring the wood resin to the surface and help achieve an alluring deep black lustre.
    On the back, the exposed skeletal vertebrae of the spinal column reinforce its association with the spirit world of revered dead male ancestors imbued with a life force called "cemi" that could assume different forms, invisible as well as visible. In this animate universe the Taino actively sought contact with these potent and influential beings who were capable of performing formidable deeds. Many had names, titles, even genealogies, and with each interaction between object and person the "cemies" added to their biography.According to Bercht et al. 1997, p.73 this figure has been identified as the Boinayel the Rain Giver. The tears that stream from his eyes signify the magical tears that created rain.


  • Bibliography

    • McEwan 2009 p. 27 bibliographic details
    • Bercht et al 1997 p. 73-74; cat no 54 bibliographic details
    • Fagg 1977 pl.3 bibliographic details
    • Bate & Thornton 2012 pp. 258-9, fig. 32; p. 295 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Exhibition history


    2000-2001 6 Dec-11 Feb, London, BM Room 35; Human Image
    2003 18 Oct-14 Dec, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
    2004 17 Jan-28 Mar, Kobe City Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
    2004 10 Apr-13 Jun, Fukuoka Art Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
    2004 26 Jun-29 Aug, Niigata Bandaijima Art Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
    2005 1 Oct-2007 7 Jan, London, Horniman Museum, Amazon to Caribbean: Early Peoples of the Rainforest
    2008, Apr-Sept, Barcelona, Museo Barbier-Mueller D'Art Precolombi, 'Caribbean Before Columbus'
    2008 Sept -2009 Jan, Santiago de Compostela, Fundacion Caixa Galiciade, 'Caribbean Before Columbus'
    2009, Jan-Apr, Madrid, Museo de America, 'Caribbean Before Columbus'
    2012 10 Apr-10 Jul, Quai Branly, Paris; Masters of Chaos
    2012 19 Jul-25 Nov, London, BM Shakespeare: Staging the World

  • Conservation

    See treatments 

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition notes

    Acquisition details unknown.

  • Department

    Africa, Oceania & the Americas

  • Registration number


Male figure (deity?) made of wood.

Male figure (deity?) made of wood.

Image description



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Object reference number: ESA25675

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