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Culture:African; Yoruba people
Title:Dance Staff for Shango (Ose Sango)
Date Made:20th century
Materials:carved wood with pigment
Place Made:Africa; Nigeria
Measurements:Staff: 20 x 5 ¼ x 4 in., height with stand: 21 ¾ in.
Narrative Inscription:  unmarked
Accession Number:  SC 2013.14
Credit Line:Purchased in honor of John Pemberton III, Consulting Curator of African Art
Museum Collection:  Smith College Museum of Art

standing female figure, proper left arm holding something over her shoulder, proper left down with hand around small object, scarified face, elaborate hairdo with large headdress

Label Text:
Shango is a powerful orisha (demigod) celebrated across the diaspora of Yoruba people in Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States. He controls the forces of thunder, lightning, drumming, and dance, and he is a hyper-masculine individual.
As a result, devotees of Shango approach the spirit using feminine energy. Men braid their hair in women’s styles and wear women’s clothing as they dance, holding a dance staff such as this, to honor Shango.

This staff shows a woman wearing a double-headed axe on her head. The axe symbolizes the lightning and fire of Shango, and the woman is seen as a tempering or soothing presence to the hot-headed deity. The male and female attributes of this staff are best understood as gendered energies, not sexualities. Other male orisha, such as Obatala, have both male and female avatars, while some female orisha, like Oya, are warriors and harnessers of masculine power and energy.

Susan E. Kart '96, Assistant Professor of the Arts of Africa, Lehigh University (2018)

women; religion; ceremonies

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