African Art
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery

Horned Male Figure Surmounted by Two Animals (Ikenga)

early 20th century

Wood and encrustation

36 × 8 1/2 × 9 3/4 in. (91.4 × 21.6 × 24.8 cm)
Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection
The ikenga, a kind of altar, celebrates male achievement and wealth and is a metaphor for strength and success. Smaller versions are owned by individual men, while larger versions belong to a village. The owner of an ikenga makes sacrifices to it to ensure success before important undertakings. The horns on the figure reference their use by animals as weapons and exemplify power and aggression. The seated male figure holds a knife or machete in his right hand. His left hand supports a rifle resting on his shoulder. In southeastern Nigeria, the male ethos emphasized warfare, aggression, physical accomplishment, and the strife of power.
Guinea Coast, Nigeria
20th century

James Willis Gallery, San Francisco, by 1987; sold to Charles B. Benenson (1913–2004), Greenwich, Conn., December 22, 1987, gift to the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., 2004


“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), 75, 301, fig. 19.

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.