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Fine / Early 20th C. African Igbo Wood Ikenga Figure

$1,495.00
Western Africa, Nigeria, Igbo peoples, ca. early 20th century CE. A tall, hand-carved wooden shrine figure (or ikenga) depicting a male figure standing atop a pair of delineated legs. In Igbo society, the Ikenga is a ritual object that symbolizes masculine strength as well as the ability to achieve great feats through one's own efforts. Most of these figures are simple, sometimes merely horns projecting from a wooden block, with horns symbolizing the aggression of the male animal. This example is a much more elaborate figure with a broad chest, curved arms, and a stocky neck, with the remnants of a quartet of smaller anthropomorphic figures attached to its back. The figure's striking countenance is comprised of almond-shaped eyes, a petite nose, a slender mouth, and a pair of enormous horns which flank a domed brow, all colored in natural black and red pigments. Made to be placed on or next to a personal alter, this is a fabulous example from the Igbo! Custom museum-quality display stand included. Size: 23.5" H (59.7 cm); 25.5" H (64.8 cm) on included custom stand.

Ikenga are physical representations of horned deities known as "alusi." In his book "The Tribal Arts of Africa: Surveying Africa’s Artistic Geography," (Thames and Hudson, 2004, p. 93), author Jean-Baptiste Bacquart explains how, "Igbo artists are famous for their ikenga figures which are kept on personal altars and receive prayers before special occasions. They display a typical pair of backward-curving horns which symbolize the strength, power, and courage that Igbo men aspire to."

While figures like this example are carved to represent anthropomorphic figures, their metaphysical association is not always so simple. Ikenga are not typically dedicated to an individual as a whole, but rather their right hand or right arm. The arm and hand are themselves both symbols and instruments of strength, willpower, and motivation, and ikenga figures generally hold weapons such as large knives or clubs in their right hand as a symbol of power. Here, the absence of such weaponry suggests this figure (and subsequently the individual it represents) is able to accomplish such monumental feats through size and brute strength alone.

Condition: Surface wear and abrasions commensurate with age, with small losses and hairline pressure fissures across most surfaces. Chips to feet, legs, torso, arms, head, and horns. Losses and fading to pigmentation, and extensive but inactive insect damage, otherwise very good. Nice earthen deposits as well as pigmentation remnants throughout.

Provenance: private New York, New York, USA collection; ex-private New York, New York, USA collection

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