Yoruba Bronze Osugbo Staff

SKU PF.4901

19th Century AD to 20th Century AD


13.75″ (34.9cm) high




Southwestern Nigeria

Gallery Location



This beautiful bronze staff is known as an ipawo ase, or “hand-held staff of authority/life force.” It was used by individuals who possessed personal power or ase, including chiefs, priests, Osugbo elders and kings. The Yoruba believe the essential life force (ase) can be “harnessed” by a person through training, experience and initiation, and used to help others. During ceremonies a king might bless someone by pointing the staff towards them, thus transferring energy or ase from one to the other. The nearly identical faces on the top of this staff probably represent a generic ancestor or a deity, who is crowned by a knob with a slit down the center. Twin extensions from either side are hung with bells to announce the blessing and alert the spirits. The design on the lower section is similar to the patterns found bracelets and other objects. There is no doubt that through the medium of bronze this staff has acquired its own power, which is like ase itself– immutable, timeless and perfectly formed.

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