The figure depicted is Eshu, the trickster god of the Yoruba peoples. Eshu is a god who takes many forms and can appear as male or female. The god can be a messenger, the guardian of crossroads, and a mischievous troublemaker for those who fail to acknowledge him/her. Here, Eshu is made out of many strings of cowrie shells, which represented wealth. The object itself was originally a container for magical powder, with a carved rectangular box hidden underneath the shells. Both the shells and the powder gave this figure its value and power.