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.


  • Title: Spirit Statue
  • Creator: Urhobo
  • Date Created: 1900/1949
  • Physical Dimensions: w44.5 x h144.8 x d33 cm (overall)
  • Type: Sculpture
  • External Link: MFAH
  • Medium: Wood
  • Credit Line: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, museum purchase with funds provided by the Caroline Wiess Law Accessions Endowment Fund

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