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African Art

Ngbe Leopard Society Lodge Emblem

early 20th century

Diker, crocodile, bovine, and deer skulls; tortoise shells, horn, fiber, wood, rattan, palm leaf spines, and encrustation

42 × 38 × 10 in. (106.68 × 96.52 × 25.4 cm)
Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection
The strategy of assemblage in modern and contemporary art resonates closely with an array of African sculptures that feature a variety of applied materials and meaningful items. These works include Central African power figures and other empowered objects, such as this society display screen. The sacred emblem is an assemblage of objects associated with secrets underlying the rituals of the Ngbe Leopard Society. Ngbe is a male association responsible for law enforcement that continues to be an important social institution today. Attached to the central pillar of a society lodge, the emblem would have acted as a mnemonic device, as the objects carried secret symbolic meaning only understood by the initiated.
Cross River region, Nigeria
On view
20th century
Architectural Elements

Damon Brandt Gallery: unknown-January 31,1991
Charles B. Benenson Collection, donated to Yale University Art Gallery in 2004


Sarah Adams, Call and Response: Journeys of African Art, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2000), 58, fig. 33.

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

Lisa R. Brody et al., “Ceremonial Objects: An Unusual Costume and the Leopard Society,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2010): 107, 109, fig. 4.

Ian McClure, Laurence Kanter, and Lisa R. Brody, “Introduction,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2010): 29, ill.

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), 311, ill.

Ian McClure and Carol Snow, “Inside Art: Teaching Technical Art History at the Yale University Art Gallery,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2013): 77–78, fig. 4.

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.