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Pascack Valley High School
200 Piermont Avenue
Hillsdale, NJ 07642
176. Ikenga (Shrine figure)
Can be abstract or more naturalistic.
If the sculpture depicts somebody sitting on a stool, it symbolizes honor.
Ikenga stands for the power of the right hand.
The figures, if they have arms, hold items that help the owner get things done.
Power of the right hand is always emphasized.
Cultural and/or historical influences:
- One of the large ethnic groups in what is now Nigeria is Igbo.
- Among the Igbo in Northern Igboland is a tradition of creating what is known as an Ikenga.
- They are carved wooden figures that have a human face with animal attributes.
How the work conforms to the artistic conventions and/or deviates from the norm:
- Conforms to the art style and culture of the Igbo people.
What impact did/does the work have:
- Cultural identity, helped people to understand and celebrate individuality and personal achievements.
Subject matter or narrative:
- A sculpture of a human with animal characteristics (horns).
- Personal power, accomplishments, authority.
- This piece was not a portrait, but rather a symbolic representation of power, authority, and accomplishment.
- The Ikenga is known as the place of strength, it's a personal spirit of one's human achievements or abilities.
- Horns may symbolize the idea that actions were taken first, with the heads (think before you act).
Artistic style of the work:
- Stylized: Each Ikenga figure goes by the same principles, but what differs are the little details (for example, what they hold in their hands).
- Idealized: Each Ikenga is an idealized image or symbol of the personal owner.
Visual/Physical elements of art:
- The large, long horns emphasize the verticality of the piece.
- The horizontal forms that decorate the arms of the figure contrast with the verticality of the piece.
Purpose of the work/Intention of the artist:
- Made to showcase one's power, accomplishments, and authority in personal shrines.
Artist and Patron (Intended Audience):
- Were personal objects that suggested achievement of their owners, could relate to person's occupation.
Where was the work meant to be viewed/experienced?
- It would be found in a shrine within the owner's home.