Nigeria, Ijebu Ode, Yoruba people
Panels, late 19th century, wood.
Gift of Mrs. William B. Belknap 1976.12.1-.3
This triptych tells the story of a shifting political
power and struggle among the Yoruba people. The period
when these panels were carved marked the end of the
Oyo Empire and with it the decline of the Yoruba nation.
Civil war erupted among the various Yoruba kingdoms.
This protracted period of unrest lasted until the intervention
of the British and the imposition of colonial rule.
The events that are commemorated in this panel appear
to be a victory by a military general over a formerly
powerful king. The mounted general in the center of
the triptych is the most prominent figure represented
on the panels. He is brandishing a gun and spear in
an apparent gesture of triumph. The king, on the other
hand, is one of the least significant figures represented
here. He is shown on the far right hand side at the
bottom of the right hand panel. The position of the
king relative to the general suggests instability and
shifting power structures that were emerging at the
end of the nineteenth century. He is wearing his conical
crown and is flanked by birds. The birds are indicative
of the Support of the local witches. The Yoruba people
shared a common ancestry and the sculptor suggests unity
through a repeated “W” motif of linked arms
throughout the panel.