Headdress in the Shape of the Head of an Indian Woman Surmounted by a Male Figure with Shackles Artist, possibly by: John Goba (Sierra Leonean, born 1944)

mid-to late 20th century

African Art

On view, 1st floor, African Art

In the late nineteenth century, Sierra Leone experienced a large influx of laborers from western India for the construction of its railroad, undercutting wages for local laborers and, in a way, “shackling” them. This created ongoing racial tensions in the country, which is addressed in the pairing of an African man with a West Indian woman in this image. The shackles may also imply that the man is chained by his love for the woman, whose light skin was considered to be very attractive. The phallic shape of the woman’s hairstyle further supports such an interpretation and may refer to Mami Wata, a water spirit.


Wood with metal and enamel paint


33 3/4 × 10 1/2 × 16 in. (85.725 × 26.67 × 40.64 cm)

Credit Line

Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection

Accession Number



20th century


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 records is ongoing.



Possibly Jeremiah Cole, Los Angeles and Atlanta. Charles B. Benenson Collection, donated to Yale University Art Gallery in 2004
  • 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), 76, 312, fig. 20
  • "Acquisitions, July 1, 2005–June 30, 2006," Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2006), 222
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

ceremonial objects, headdress, headgear, masks (costume)


men women

Technical metadata and APIs


Open in Mirador

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