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African Art

Shrine Piece / Headdress (a-Tshol / Ngach / Elek)

late 19th–early 20th century


11 5/8 × 5 1/2 × 8 in. (29.528 × 13.97 × 20.32 cm)
base: 3 × 6 3/4 × 7 3/4 in. (7.62 × 17.145 × 19.685 cm)
Leonard C. Hanna, Jr., Class of 1913, Fund
This sacred object is called an a-tshol by the Baga, which translates as “medicine” and refers to any substance known to have powers of healing or protection. The humanoid forehead, ears, and nose merge into a birdlike beak. The Baga believed that such a composite creature was able to travel through water, air, and earth. Shrine pieces like this would have been in possession of the eldest male member of a family. They symbolized a family’s ancestral lineage and were kept in a shrine with other objects of supernatural power.
or Guinea-Bissau
On view
Baga, Nalu, Pukar, or Bulungits
19th–20th century

Collected by Emil Storrer in the 1950's
Sold to a private collector in Switzerland, unknown date–2007
Galerie Patrick Frolich, Zurich, Switzerland, 2008
Purchased by Guy van Rijn from Galerie Patrick Frolich during the Parcours des Monde in Paris, September 10–14, 2008
Purchased by Yale University Art Gallery in 2010 from Guy van Rijn


“Acquisitions,” https://artgallery.yale.edu/sites/default/files/files/Pub_Bull_acquisitions_2010.pdf (accessed 2012).

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.