Shrine of the head

Yoruba peoples
20th century
Artist Unidentified

Object Place: Nigeria


Overall: 22 x 35 x 32 cm (8 11/16 x 13 3/4 x 12 5/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

wood, cowry shells, fabric, leather, glass, metal tack

Not On View


Africa and Oceania, Contemporary Art


Religious and cult objects

The head is one of the most significant components of Yoruba sculpture and cosmology. The Yoruba believe that the head (ori) is the source of one’s ase, or life force, that dictates one’s personality and destiny. This shrine, also known as ibori, is a personal shrine that represents one’s ase. Such shrines were made and consecrated by divination priests and were part of everyday ritual practice amongst many adult Yoruba. The cowrie shells, formerly used as currency, allude to the object’s role as the source of personal wealth and prosperity.


1965, sold by Galerie Majestic, Paris, to Geneviève McMillan (b. 1922 - d. 2008), Cambridge, MA; 2008, to the Geneviève McMillan and Reba Stewart Foundation, Cambridge; 2009, gift of the Geneviève McMillan and Reba Stewart Foundation to the MFA. (Accession Date: June 17, 2009)

Credit Line

Gift of Geneviève McMillan in memory of Reba Stewart