AP®︎/College Art History
- Great Mosque of Djenné
- Benin Plaques
- Benin Plaque: Equestrian Oba and Attendants
- Sika dwa kofi (Golden Stool), Asante people
- Owie Kimou, Portrait Mask (Mblo) of Moya Yanso (Baule peoples)
- Bundu / Sowei Helmet Mask (Mende peoples)
- Male figure, Ikenga (Igbo Peoples)
- Olowe of Ise, Veranda Post (Yoruba people)
- Olowe of Ise, veranda post (Yoruba peoples)
Male figure, Ikenga (Igbo Peoples)
Ikenga, Igbo Peoples, Nigeria, wood (University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology) Speakers: Dr. Peri Klemm and Dr. Steven Zucker. Created by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker.
Want to join the conversation?
- Is the tradition of commissioning Ikenga still around today? If so, what are the "stats" - how many people own one in the modern day as opposed to, say, one or two hundred years ago?(5 votes)
- I am Igbo. Not many people own Ikenga today. It is one of many aspects of the Igbo tradition that was totally destroyed by the advent of Christianity in Igboland which led to the Ikenga being associated with what became regarded (and derided) as paganism. You are extremely unlikely to find Ikenga statues in homes except for the rare aficionado, or even rarer adherent to traditional Igbo religion.(8 votes)
- Around what date was this Ikenga made?(2 votes)
- The listed dates at3:45mark these as originating from the 19-20th Centuries. Three pieces are not dated in the video.(6 votes)
- At2:48I saw something written on the inside of the ram horn. Do you know what that says? Thank you(2 votes)
- Good eye, and good catch!
It appears to be the kind of number written on pieces by museum staff, for cataloging pieces. It is not likely part of the original.(2 votes)
(soft piano music) - [Voiceover] One of the large ethic groups in what is now Niagara is Igbo. Among the Igbo in Northern Igboland is a tradition of creating what is known as an Ikenga. [Voicevoer] Ikenga are caved wooden figures that have a human face with animal attributes. They can be small, a couple inches. They can be very abstract, sometimes it's more naturalistic like the one we see at the Penn University Museum. [Voiceover] Likely made for a warrior. He's seated on a stool which is an important signifier of honor. He holds in his right hand, as all of Ikenga do, a sword. This is an expression of power, but in his left hand, this particular figure seems to hold a human head. That would be an expression of his warrior status. Maybe I shouldn't say they all hold a sword in the right hand, because some of the Ikenga are abstract and don't actually have arms. - [Voiceover] So, if you were Igbo, you would know that the Ikenga stood for the power of the right hand, and it really wouldn't be necessary to depict it in the carving. In other words, that same concept in African art, that it's not so much about what it looks like, but rather the concept that the figure is trying to convey. The Ikenga were personal objects that suggested the achievement of their owners, and they could relate to that persons occupation, whether they were a hunter, a farmer, maybe they were an exceptionally yam farmer. They could have been a smith, or they could be a university professor. - [Voiceover] Once an Ikenga had been commissioned by a master carver, had been consecrated, it would enter into a shrine within the owners home. - [Voiceover] The Ikenga is known as the place of strength. So, it's a personal spirit of ones human achievements, ones ability, and it holds items that helps the owner get things done. So yes, the power of the right hand is always emphasized. The right hand holds a sword, holds the ability to cut through things to get to what one wishes in life. The left hand can hold a whole host of things including the tusk of an elephant in the form of a trumpet, a head, or even a staff to suggest ones rank. - [Voiceover] Let's take a close look at this particular object. We have rams horns that are almost as big as the entire body. They curl at the top, and they're decorated with these wonderful vertical and horizontal abstract forms. - [Voiceover] There's a great saying among the Igbo that a ram fights with his head first. The idea that any action is taken first with the heads. The head is emphasized, the power, the aggression, the strength of the head in these rams horns. We'll notice that it has a lot of detailing on the sides, these pod-shaped forms with dots and lines incised into them, which seems to mirror what the figure has on the sides of his head. - [Voiceover] You also see that there are decorative patterns that have been cut into the body, which are likely the representation of scarification of body decoration. - [Voiceover] Typically, scarification found on the temple and also on the forehead suggested that the wear was a title holding member of an Igbo society. So, this figure, who also has this pattering on his temple and on his horns seems to also suggest that high-rank. - [Voiceover] So, this is not a portrait. We shouldn't think of it in that way, but it is a symbolic representation of the power or the authority and the accomplishment of the individual for whom this was made. - [Voiceover] I'd like to think of it as a sacred diploma, something that you would hang in your office to remember the status that you've reached through hard work, through discipline, through the mastery of a craft. - [Voiceover] I would love to have my own personal Ikenga. (soft piano music)