Intersections

Leadership Arts and Architecture of the Yoruba

In the precolonial era, the Yoruba peoples of southwestern Nigeria and the neighboring Republic of Benin viewed their kings, or obas, as the center of political, religious, and cultural life. Living symbols of divinity, rulers had sacred authority within their kingdoms. Commensurate with the oba‘s status was the reverence accorded the palace, or afin, which was considered as sacred, if not more so, than many temples devoted to Yoruba deities.

The metaphorical centrality of the oba was mirrored in the physical centrality of the afin, which was always situated in the heart of town. The most powerful historical obas had walled palaces that contained extensive grounds, with substantial, rambling building complexes and even forested areas for hunting. Inside the walls of the palace were vast courtyards that served as a town assembly hall, law courts, and sports grounds. Further inside the complex were more courtyards of varying size that contained living quarters and shrines. As  both palace and temple, the afin was decorated with intricately carved palace doors and veranda posts that not only asserted the supremacy of the oba with their fine carving but also conveyed narratives emphasizing his political power, royal lineage, military prowess, and essential ritual role, all of which sustained life in the kingdom.

  • X69.66AB Palace door-panels

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    Object Name: Palace door-panels

    Artist: Atelier of Areogun

    Culture: Yoruba peoples

    Place of Origin: Nigeria

    Date/Era: Early to mid-20th century

    Medium/Materials: Wood

    Dimensions: H: 182 cm

    Credit Line: Fowler Museum at UCLA. Museum purchase.

    Accession Number: X69.66AB

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  • X91.29a Housepost

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    Housepost
    Artist: Obembe Alaye
    Nigeria
    Yoruba peoples
    Wood and paint
    H: 213.3 cm, W: 20 cm (H: 83.9 in, W: 7.8 in)
    Fowler Museum at UCLA. The Jerome L. Joss Collection. X91.29a

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  • X91.29b Housepost

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    Housepost
    Artist: Obembe Alaye
    Nigeria
    Yoruba peoples
    Wood and paint
    H: 213 cm, W: 19 cm (H: 83.8 in, W: 7.4 in)
    Fowler Museum at UCLA. The Jerome L. Joss Collection. X91.29b

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  • X91.336 Door

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