West Africa, Nigeria, Yoruba people, ca. early 20th century CE. A pair of iron bird staffs. The first is a tall iron staff with long bells on its lower part and capped by a bird finial atop a thin round disk. Below the disk is an upside-down group of four bells with a round ball below them. The bird has a thin, arched neck and a large body, like a form of guinea fowl or pheasant. Rather than being a solid piece, the bird's body is formed of long, folded strips of iron with flat sheets forming the wings. The patina on the wings has gained a beautiful purple iridescence. The other is a more abstract bird, standing on a spoked wheel attached to a thin shaft. Smaller birds encircle the central bird form. Displayed together on a custom stand. Size of largest: 6" W x 35" H (15.2 cm x 88.9 cm); size with stand: 9" L x 12" W x 37" H (22.9 cm x 30.5 cm x 94 cm)
Birds have a special significance to the Yoruba, representing the triumph of good over evil, and staffs of this kind are called Osun babalawo. See a similar example at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1991.375.4).
Provenance: Adeon Gallery, Chicago, Illinois, USA, acquired prior to 1970
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