Indiana University Bloomington IU Bloomington IUB

Pair of Shrine Figures

A variety of spiritually charged objects, known in general as iran, were placed on Bidjogo shrines to protect and ensure prosperity, particularly in the form of fertility. Carved figures such as these commemorated deceased kings, although the shrines themselves were dedicated to more generalized spiritual forces. The top hats worn by the figures here were considered royal emblems. Danielle Gallois Duquette, who did field research among the Bidjogo in the 1970s, was told that the depiction of a top hat on a figure refers to a specific king of the island of Bubaque, the most populated of the over eighty islands in the Bissagos group, who died in the 1940s.

Bidjogo peoples, Bissagos Islands, Guinea-Bissau
Pair of Shrine Figures
20th century
Wood, pigment, iron, beads, fiber
H. 19 ¾ in. (50.2 cm) and 21 in. (53.3 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 74.55.1 and .2