Shango Dance Wand

  • This Shango dance wand would have been carried by a priest during a festival or procession
  • Shango is the Yoruba deity of thunder, the giver of children and the patron saint of twins
  • This is a rare example of such an artifact, with obvious evidence of ritual use
  • Get complete item description here
Item No. 30-0984

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This intriguing Shango dance wand would have been carried by a priest or priestess during a festival or procession honoring the Yoruba deity of thunder. The wand is called an oshe shango and has a double headed ax at the tip and a figure representing a female supplicant. The bottom of the wand is broken off exactly where the devotee would have held it during the ritual performance. Like much traditional African art this dance wand lacks the shiny surface and untouched veneer usually so prized by connoisseurs in the west. But the value of a piece such as this is that it shows its authenticity through evidence of its use for ritual purposes.

This dance wand was almost certainly used for not only performance rituals such as possession, festivals, and processions but also on an altar. In both cases ritual ablutions such as blood, rum and other activating materials would have been applied to the wand in order to awaken and honor the deity. As a result most African divination sculpture will show obvious signs of ritual use and this increases their value and proves their authenticity. This particular example is a quintessential example of a classic Shango dance wand and it is rare to find one with such obvious evidence of ritual use, making it a must for any collection of non-western artifacts.

It is interesting to note that objects such as this one were admired and highly coveted by European modern artists, especially the French fauves, cubists and the German Expressionists. Artists such as Picasso and Matisse had collections of African sculpture and were influenced by the abstracted ideals of African artists. These sculptures influenced these early modernists to experiment with abstraction in their paintings and sculptures and the rest is history! As a result this Shango dance wand would be just as much at home in a collection of non-western art as it would be in a collection of 19th and early 20th century art. Looking at photos of Picasso's studio and the living room of such early collectors as Gertrude Stein one can see African art juxtaposed with modernist paintings and the effect is quite avant-garde.

The dance wand is only made more interesting with knowledge of the deity it honors. Shango is the Yoruba god of thunder, the giver of children and the patron saint of twins. Shango, the fourth king of Oyo was once a mortal that had a volatile temper. His fascination with magic led him to one day create lightning. One day his temper exploded causing lightning bolts to descend from the sky, burning down the capital, killing numerous subjects, and most of his wives and children. Filled with grief and remorse, Shango committed suicide by hanging himself from a tree. Shortly after his death there were numerous thunderstorms and his followers said that they saw the king riding on a white horse. The belief that the king was immortal prevailed and he became an integral part of the Yoruba pantheon of gods called orishas. To this day every time it thunders devotees of Shango say that it is the deity riding through the heavens seeking justice. Traditionally a dance wand, such as this one, would bring its owner luck in legal battles, many romantic conquests, and exciting new career opportunities.

Late 19th century

19 1/2" high
Shango Dance Wand
Period: 19th Century
Depth: 2.0 Inches
Width: 5.0 Inches
Height: 19.5 Inches

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