Staff with birds

Yoruba peoples
20th century, 1950–2000
Artist Unidentified

Object Place: Nigeria


Overall (without base): 34.5 x 18 x 20 cm (13 9/16 x 7 1/16 x 7 7/8 in.) Lender Accessory (base): 2 x 8.5 x 9 cm (13/16 x 3 3/8 x 3 9/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


Africa and Oceania, Contemporary Art



In earlier settings these staffs were emblems of healers and associated with the Yoruba deity Osanyin, the god of herbal medicines. The fifteen birds clustered around a central avian image are associated with the mystical powers of “Our Mothers” and the divination process, and occur frequently in Yoruba iconography.


1970s, sold by an unidentified African merchant in Cambridge, MA, to Geneviève McMillan (b. 1922 - d. 2008), Cambridge; 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