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Arts of Africa

At the MFAH, art from the diverse continent of Africa spans ancient to contemporary times and includes the world's most significant collection of gold objects: the Glassell Collection of African Gold.

Spirit Statue
Early 20th century

57 x 17 1/2 x 13 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Museum purchase with funds provided by the Caroline Wiess Law Accessions Endowment Fund

Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, & the Americas

Arts of Africa

Nigeria's Urhobo people create complex art, made not to please human eyes but to appear beautiful to the spirit world. This figure of a warrior wears a gourd containing medicines that have magical powers, strong protection necessary for victory. Massive arm and leg ornaments adorn his body.

The Urhobo live in southern Nigeria, on the western edge of the Niger River delta. Their most important cult is dedicated to ancestors who are represented as mythical warriors of powerful spirits. The fierce attitude and commanding physique of this warrior exemplify the Urhobo view that these beings are capable of protecting the community from attack and evil spirits. This monumental sculpture is exceptional for its strong yet elegant proportions, state of preservation, and fearsome guardianship. It was worshipped in a sanctuary and usually kept hidden from public view.