Yoruba Onile Figures

Yoruba Onile figures symbolise the original progenitors, the male and female members of the Osugbo, and by extension the entire community.

Tribe: Yoruba

Origin: Nigeria

Approx Age: 19th century

Materials: Lead, filled with clay

Dimensions cm: both stand at 12 tall

Ref. Number: 0996


A lovely very old pair of Yoruba Onile figures from the Ogboni / Osugbo society Onile figures, these are very eroded due to libations leaving a very encrusted patina. Kneeling position leaning slightly back, elongated bulging eyes, loops on the foreheads with what looks to be hats of a description, and very characterful expressions.

 Provenance: Ex Seward Kennedy Collection.



Onile, or “Owner of the House”, are free-standing figures usually found in pairs. They are cast at the founding of a settlement and establishment of an Osugbo Lodge and will serve an entire Lodge. They symbolise the original progenitors, the male and female members of the Osugbo,
and by extension the entire community.

This very charming Onile couple are representational of the distinctive style used for such figures, with their bulging eyes, elongated faces, broad shoulders and thin arms. The kneeling pose and “devotional” locking of hands at the abdomen may be associated with oath-taking or paying of homage.

This small figure is very large in meaning and represents the values and mores that have long been associated with the Yoruba people. Onile figures are of a lead composite and filled with clay.

The video opposite is on Youtube explaining about the Ogboni society.

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