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Pair of Staffs (Edan)

A work made of ivory, iron, and string.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of ivory, iron, and string.


19th century or before


Ijebu, Nigeria
Coastal West Africa

About this artwork

This pair of intricately sculpted ivory staffs (edan) is highly unusual in the corpus of Yoruba art. Typically cast in brass, edan are symbols of membership in the politically powerful Osugbo society. These may have been crafted in ivory for an Osugbo member who was a devotee of the creator god Obatala, who is strongly associated with the color white. Edan commonly depict a man and a woman who are symbolically joined by a chain. Likewise, the flanking birds, possibly woodpeckers, on these staffs evoke pairing. In Yoruba iconography, birds often represent the supernatural powers of women, upon which rulers must rely.


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Arts of Africa




Pair of Staffs (Edan)


Nigeria (Object made in)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Ivory, iron, and string


H.: 26 cm (10 1/4 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Michael J. Faletti, the Faletti Family Collection

Reference Number


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Extended information about this artwork

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