Installation view of exhibition.
Past exhibition

Exhibition: Bámigbóyè: A Master Sculptor of the Yorùbá Tradition

Bámigbóyè: A Master Sculptor of the Yorùbá Tradition is the first exhibition dedicated to the workshop of the Nigerian artist Moshood Olúṣọmọ Bámigbóyè (ca. 1885–1975). Part of a generation of Yorùbá woodcarvers with flourishing workshops in southwestern Nigeria, Bámigbóyè was highly regarded for the masks that he made in the 1920s and 1930s for ceremonies called Ẹpa. Today, these masks are considered some of the most spectacular and complex works of Yorùbá art ever created. Drawn from the collections of national and international museums, including the Yale University Art Gallery and the National Museum in Lagos, Nigeria, the masks and other sculptures in the exhibition—such as architectural elements from palaces and shrine complexes and objects made for a European clientele—present a nuanced account of the artist’s 50-year career. A selection of textiles, beadwork, metalwork, and ceramics situates Bámigbóyè’s work within the broader scope of 20th-century Yorùbá creative expression, while archival images show how his life and workshop practice reflect the artistic, religious, and political changes taking place in Nigeria at the time. With video footage of an Ẹpa performance staged by the artist’s family in honor of the exhibition Bámigbóyè: A Master Sculptor of the Yorùbá Tradition celebrates the global legacy of this artist while also underscoring his enduring importance to his community.

E. H. Duckworth, Moshood Olúṣọmọ Bámigbóyè Holding a Portrait Bust. Ìlọfà, Kwara State, Nigeria, ca. 1940. Danford Collection of West African Art and Artefacts, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom, BIRRC-D432-1. © Research and Cultural Collections, University of Birmingham

Carved wooden mask depicting a richly adorned ruler on horseback carrying a sword and wearing protective amulets on his arms. Three tiers of small-scale attendant figures surround the ruler.

Moshood Olúṣọmọ Bámigbóyè, Atófòjọ́wò (You Can Look at It for a Whole Day), Mask for an Ẹpa Festival with a Superstructure Depicting a Ruler (Ọba). Kájọlà, Kwara State, Nigeria, 1920–30. Possibly erínmodò (African oil nut tree) and pigment. Cleveland Museum of Art, John L. Severance Fund and Gift of Mary Price, 1991.165. Photo: Courtesy The Cleveland Museum of Art

Views of the Exhibition

Watch the Video

Exhibition and publication made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts; the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Mary Cushing Fosburgh and James Whitney Fosburgh, B.A. 1933, M.A. 1935, Publication Fund; the Robert Lehman, B.A. 1913, Endowment Fund; and the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage. Organized by James Green, the Frances and Benjamin Benenson Foundation Associate Curator of African Art.

Related Publication

Bámigbóyè catalogue cover.

Bámigbóyè: A Master Sculptor of the Yorùbá Tradition

James Green
With Olúṣẹ̀yẹ Adéṣọlá, Anne Turner Gunnison, Efeoghene Igor, Will Rea, and Cathy Silverman