Among the Igbo of southeastern Nigeria, the ikenga is a shrine that is both the symbol of an individual man’s drive to succeed, as well as a means—as the focus of prayers and offerings—of ensuring that success. A man might acquire a simple ikenga as a relatively young adult, but only when he has become a person of very high rank would he acquire one like this example. The figure clearly portrays a man of status, one who has reached the highest level of Ozo, an Igbo men’s society that recognizes success and accomplishment. In his right hand, the ikenga figure holds an iron staff reserved for the highest Ozo titleholders, and his three-legged stool is also the prerogative of the highest rank; even the ivory tusk trumpet that the figure holds heralds the presence of a titled man.
Igbo peoples, Anambra Valley, Nigeria
First half of the 20th century
H. 24 in. (61.0 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 70.50