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.
Wood, leather, cowrie shells
Purchased with the gift of the Friends of the Smith College Museum of Art
ID Number: SC 1991:44