African Artist From the Igbo Tribe, ‘Rare, Published, Multiple Museum-Exhibited Igbo Shrine’, Berz Gallery of African Art
African Artist From the Igbo Tribe, ‘Rare, Published, Multiple Museum-Exhibited Igbo Shrine’, Berz Gallery of African Art
African Artist From the Igbo Tribe, ‘Rare, Published, Multiple Museum-Exhibited Igbo Shrine’, Berz Gallery of African Art
African Artist From the Igbo Tribe, ‘Rare, Published, Multiple Museum-Exhibited Igbo Shrine’, Berz Gallery of African Art
African Artist From the Igbo Tribe, ‘Rare, Published, Multiple Museum-Exhibited Igbo Shrine’, Berz Gallery of African Art
African Artist From the Igbo Tribe, ‘Rare, Published, Multiple Museum-Exhibited Igbo Shrine’, Berz Gallery of African Art
African Artist From the Igbo Tribe, ‘Rare, Published, Multiple Museum-Exhibited Igbo Shrine’, Berz Gallery of African Art

Arguably one of the most important Igbo pieces to be featured in any auction in recent years (last featured at Sotheby's auction nineteen years ago) this shrine object has a number of features beyond its cultural importance and stylistic rarity. The outward-facing four figures all feature ""the palms-up hand position” which ""has meanings which contribute to our understanding of the deities and their cults. Informants report that this shows the open-handedness or generosity of the deities, as well as their willingness to receive sacrifices and other presents. The gesture also means ""I have nothing to hide"", suggesting honesty. The white color applied to the pieces is thought to ""symbolize purity and again, a ""good face"" (Igbo Arts, p.92, Aniakor, Chike C. and Herbert M. Cole. Igbo Arts: Community and Cosmos. Museum of Cultural History, University of California: Los Angeles, 1984) Upon a rudimentary inspection, the shrine shows significant signs of age, with a history of applied libations and shrine substances. There is natural aging that has occurred in the areas of applied and reapplied pigment, with interesting and appropriate surface wear. This type of heavy, multiple applications of pigment or paint are characteristic of earlier Igbo figures and masks rather than late 20th century examples in which light white kaolin pigment with a small amount of paint, conservatively applied, was employed. The piece has an extensive ownership and publication history." The Igbo are a profoundly religious people who believe in a benevolent creator, usually known as Chukwu, who created the visible universe (uwa). Opposing this force for good is agbara, meaning spirit or supernatural being. In some situations people are referred to as agbara in describing an almost impossible feat performed by them. Apart from the natural level of the universe, they also believe that it exists on another level, that of the spiritual forces, the alusi. The alusi are minor deities, and are forces for blessing or destruction, depending on circumstances. They punish social offences and those who unwittingly infringe their privileges. The role of the diviner is to interpret the wishes of the alusi, and the role of the priest is to placate them with sacrifices. Either a priest is chosen through hereditary lineage or he is chosen by a particular god for his service, usually after passing through a number of mystical experiences. Each person also has a personalised providence, which comes from Chukwu, and returns to him at the time of death, a chi. This chi may be good or bad. There is a strong Igbo belief that the spirits of one's ancestors keep a constant watch over you. The living show appreciation for the dead and pray to them for future well being. It is against tribal law to speak badly of a spirit. Those ancestors who lived well, died in socially approved ways, and were given correct burial rites, live in one of the worlds of the dead, which mirror the worlds of the living. They are periodically reincarnated among the living and are given the name ndichie – the returners. Those who died bad deaths and lack correct burial rites cannot return to the world of the living, or enter that of the dead. They wander homeless, expressing their grief by causing harm among the living. These minor deities claimed an enormous part of the daily lives of the people. The belief was that these gods could be manipulated in order to protect them and serve their interests. If the gods performed these duties, they were rewarded with the continuing faith of the tribe. Different regions of Igboland have varying versions of these minor deities. Some Igbo still practice traditional Igbo religion. (Sources: Ogbaa, Kalu (1999). ""Cultural Harmony I: Igboland – the World of Man and the World of Spirits"": “Igbo: Visions of Africa”, 2013 by Herbert Cole, Invention and Tradition: The Art of Southeastern Nigeria, 2012, by Herbert M. Cole; Visona, ""A History of Art In Africa"")

Ex. James Willis, (certificate of authenticity and ownership included) US, Ex. Collection of Geraldine and Morton Dimondstein, US