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African Art

Kneeling Male Figure (Onile) Smoking a Pipe

18th–19th century


12 13/16 × 5 1/8 × 4 3/4 in. (32.5 × 13 × 12 cm)
Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection
Paired onilé figures, representations of the co-owners of an Òsugbó house, are a symbol of unity within a lodge. The kneeling posture captures a traditional form of the Òsugbó greeting and confers respect, obedience, deference, and devotion. The Òsugbó (called Ògbóni by other Yoruba groups) is an association of male and female elders who are responsible for the selection, installation, abdication, and burial of kings; they also decide judicial cases and punish serious crimes in the society.
Made in Guinea Coast, Nigeria
On view*
Ijebu Yorùbá, Òsugbó (Ògbóni) association
18th–19th century

Hooper Collection. Sotheby's, New York, November 14, 1980, lot 159; Anuschka & Harvey Menist, Haarlem, Holland, to Apr. 8, 1981; Charles B. Benenson Collection, Greenwich, Conn, 1981–2004; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.


“Acquisitions, July 1, 2005–June 30, 2006,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2006): 222.

Frederick John Lamp, Amanda Maples, and Laura M. Smalligan, Accumulating Histories: African Art from the Charles B. Benenson Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2012), 173, ill.

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.