Èsù Staff (Primary Title)
dance hook (Alternate Title)

Unknown (Artist)

19th-20th century
wood, cowrie shells, glass beads, string, cloth, seeds
Nigeria, Republic of Benin
Overall: 15 3/8 × 4 × 9 3/4 in. (39.05 × 10.16 × 24.77 cm)
Èsù, the messenger god, is an omnipresent force in the Yoruba world. If a person makes offerings to him, Èsù will communicate with the òrìsà (gods) on his or her behalf. But if he is not properly honored he becomes a trickster. Èsù is the activator of a person’s life force, enabling (or disabling) sight, intelligence, and awareness.

To send a message, Èsù sounds a flute, as he does in the carving on this staff. The second face, which represents Èsù’s dual nature and his presence in the spiritworld, appears at the tip of the arc projecting from his head. To carry this staff, a devotee would hook it over his or her shoulder, so that one face looks forward, the other back.
Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Fund
Look Here: Speed, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA, September 6, 2006 - January 7, 2007; Eleanor D. Wilson Museum, Hollins University, Roanoke, VA, October 7, 2007 - January 5, 2008

Spirit of the Motherland, Museum of Western Virginia, Roanoke, VA, September 1995- January 1996; Peninsula Fine Arts Center, Newport News, VA, January - May 1996
Lawal, Babatunde, Visions of Africa: Yoruba., Milan: 5 Continents Editions, 2012. (illus. 28)

Barriault, Anne B., and Kay M. Davidson. Selections from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Richmond, VA: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 2007. (pp 10-11)

Woodward, Richard B. African Art: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Richmond, Virginia: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 2000. (p. 24-25)

Anne Barriault, Selections Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (Richmond: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 1997) p. 40, ill. (color).

Sandra Rusak, "Instructional Resources: African Art: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts," Art Education: The Journal of the National Art Education Association, Sept. 1996, Vol. 49, No. 5, pp. 45-46 (ill. p. 45)

Richard B. Woodward, African Art (Richmond, VA: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 1994) pp. 24-25, ill.

Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

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