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Current time:0:00Total duration:3:52

Male figure, Ikenga (Igbo Peoples)

Video transcript

one of the large ethnic groups in what is now Nigeria is ebo and among the ebo in northern a bowl and is a tradition of creating what is known as an eye kanga a kanga are carved wooden figures that have a human face with animal attributes they can be small a couple inches it can be very abstract sometimes it's more naturalistic like the one we see at the Penn University Museum likely made for a warrior he's seated on a stool which is an important signifier of honor he holds in his right hand as all a kanga do a sword and this is an expression of power but in his left hand this particular figure seems to hold a human head and that would be an expression of his warrior status maybe I shouldn't say that they all hold a sword in the right hand because some of the ikenga are abstract and don't actually have arms so if you were a bow you would know that the acongress stood for the power of the right hand and it really wouldn't be necessary to depict it in the carving in other words that same concept in African art that it's not so much about what it looks like but rather the concept that the figure is trying to convey the Econo were personal objects that suggested the achievement of their owners and they could relate to that person's occupation whether they were a hunter a farmer maybe they were an exceptional yam farmer they could have been a Smith or they could be a university professor and once Anna kanga had been commissioned by a master carver had been consecrated he would enter into a shrine within the owner's home and the Econo is known as the place of strength so it's a personal spirit of one's human achievements one's ability and it holds items that helps the owner get things done so yes the power of the right hand is always emphasized the right hand holds a sword holds the ability to cut through things to get to what one wishes in life the left hand can hold a whole host of things including the tusks of an elephant and form of a trumpet a head or even a staff to suggest one's rank so let's take a closer look at this particular object we have ram's horns that are almost as big as the entire body they curl at the top and they're decorated with these wonderful vertical and horizontal abstract forms there's a great saying among the ebo that a ram fights with his head first the idea that any action is taken first with the head so the head is emphasized the power the aggression the strength of the head in these ram's horns but we'll notice that it has a lot of detailing on the sides these pod shaped forms with dots and lines incised into them which seemed to mirror what the figure has on the sides of his head we also see that there are decorative patterns that have been cut into the body which are likely a representation of scarification of body decoration and typically scarification found on the temple and also on the forehead suggested that the wear was a title holding member of an ebow society and so at this figure who also has this patterning on his temple and all his horns seems to also suggest that high rank so this is not a portrait and so we shouldn't think of it in that way but it is a symbolic representation of the power the authority and the accomplishment of the individual for whom this was made I like to think of it as a sacred diploma something that she would hang in your office to remember the status that you've reached through hard work through discipline through the mastery of a craft I would love to have my own personal Akana you