Lot 113
  • 113

Yoruba-Owo Osanmasinmi Altar Head, Nigeria

20,000 - 30,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • wood
  • Height: 12 1/4 inches (31.1 cm)


Merton D. Simpson, New York

Catalogue Note

Rams are important symbols of ancestral presence because of the aggressiveness with which they are known to protect their families, as well as their vigilance and strength.  Therefore, a sculpted ram's head often adorns the altar of high-ranking officials and leaders in the Owo region.  According to Rowland Abiodun (in Drewal, Pemberton and Abiodun 1989: 112), the "motif in osanmasinmi, the ram head, may also take the form of a combination of the human head (as is the case in the Ojomo's palace).  The Olowo, Ojomo, and high-ranking chiefs who head important families in Owo usually own and maintain ojupo (ancestral shrines) which serve as places where those living can communicate with their deceased ancestors on a proper and regular basis, in elaborate ancestral rites during the new yam harvest."

For a closely related human head with ram's horns in the National Museum of Nigeria, Lagos, see Ekpo Eyo, Masterpieces of Nigerian Art (2008: 118, cat. 72a).