Exhibit title: Identity of the Sacred: Two Nigerian Shrine Figures graphic


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human beings wear symbols that help identify their relationships to others in a group, in society and to the world at large. For example, stripes and medals indicate an individual is a member of the military holding a specific rank; a white uniform, a nurse; designs applied to one’s face or body, an individual who belongs to an organized social club. In Africa, spirits are personified and given attributes similar to those that identify their human counterparts. The Igbo and Urhobo peoples, who live in southeastern Nigeria, carve wooden shrine figures (alusi and edjo, respectively) that represent tutelary deities and ancestors. The adornments, scarification, color, surface treatment and gestures on these figures are hallmarks of identity. Thus, hairstyles, facial or body decorations and accessories, such as jewelry, tell us who the alusi and edjo figures are and why they are important in their respective cultures.

This exhibition presents the meaning of identity within two societies of southeastern Nigeria.

To learn about identity among the Urhobo, click on the figure to the left.

To learn about identity among the Igbo, click on the figure to the right.


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