The fine, intricate carving of this box clearly represents a tremendous outlay of both skill and time, which further enhanced the value of an already valuable material. Throughout sub-Saharan Africa, ivory is associated with wealth and prestige, and among the Yoruba, it is traditionally reserved for three groups: political leaders, elders of the Ogboni Society (an association dedicated to the earth goddess), and divination priests. The box may have held small gifts or stored personal belongings; boxes such as this are also said to be used as presentation containers holding offerings made to deities.
Yoruba peoples (Owo subgroup), Nigeria
18th or 19th century
L. 6 ½ in. (16.5 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 77.28