While Yoruba cosmology recognizes a divine creator removed from the affairs of mankind, ritual life addresses a more accessible pantheon of gods, the orisa. One such orisa is Sango, a deified former king of Oyo. During his lifetime Sango was a ruthless and ambitious leader who was fascinated by magical powers, such as lightening, that he was unable to control. He is commemorated as a forceful and charismatic figure whose abuse of power had tragic consequences.
Special shrines constitute the site for interaction between individual orisa and their followers. Figural sculptures displayed within them are not intended as mere aesthetic complements but rather to enhance a worshipper's state of concentration. These works at once depict idealized followers of the orisa and induce in the actual devotees a state of receptiveness necessary for them to become physical vehicles for the orisa's presence.
Leon Underwood, London, collected near coast of Nigeria, in 1946; [John J. Klejman, New York, until 1953]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1953, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1956–1978
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1969, no. 382.
The American Federation of Arts. Primitive Art Masterworks: an exhibition jointly organized by the Museum of Primitive Art and the American Federation of Arts, New York. New York: The American Federation of Arts, 1974, no. 72.
Newton, Douglas. Masterpieces of Primitive Art: The Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978, p. 173.