Lot: 157

92nd Tribal Art Auction

Rare figural sculpture "izemize"

Nigeria, Ishan (Esan)

Provenance Size Starting price / estimated price
Private Collection, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (since around 1969) H: 62.6 inch;
B: 22.4 inch
2500 EUR
plus 23 % commission, VAT, transport and insurance

heavy wood, repainted An object with similar motifs depicted in AHDRC 0096080, a second comparable object from the Jerome Joss Collection, is located at the Fowler Museum, UCLA, USA (AHDRC 0096081). According to Picton, these carvings, perhaps together with figural carved posts, may have been used to decorate homes of wealthy men or dignitaries. The present object, as well as the other two sculptures, is similar to figuratively carved veranda pillars, captured on a photograph by Allison in 1960 in Iubiadan-Emu. Allison assigns the figural posts to the Ishan communities in the northeast of the Kingdom of Benin and north of Agbor. The figures are said to be called "izemize" - "human figure that cannot speak". Ishan is the anglicised form of "Esan", that people of this community originally called themselves. The name is derived from "esanfua" - "those who have fled". For many Ishan communities trace their ancestry back to the people who once left the kingdom of Benin to avoid repression or escape justice there.


Ross, Doran H. (ed.), Visions of Africa, Los Angeles1994, p. 84 f. Roberts, Allen F., Animals in African Art, New York 1995, ill. 148