Museum Loan Network: Yoruba Collection Survey


The Yoruba of Southwest Nigeria are one of the largest and most prolific art-producing ethnic groups in Africa. With a population estimated at twenty-five million, the Yoruba are exceptional among the peoples of sub-Saharan Africa in having formed substantial cities as early as the ninth century A.D.

A continuous succession of Yoruba kings has ruled the city of Ife, Nigeria, for nearly a millennium, and the Yoruba therefore possess one of the longest continuous cultural and political traditions in sub-Saharan Africa. The Field Museum's Yoruba Collection samples this cultural continuity, and is therefore of great anthropological interest to a diverse group of scholarly, artistic, and popular audiences.

The 684-object Yoruba Collection, curated by Dr. Chap Kusimba, includes ceremonial masks, beaded royal garments, ritual figures (including three dozen pairs of the renowned and important twin statues), textiles, ceremonial containers, body adornments, domestic utensils, and musical instruments. The objects in this collection have been acquired variously by purchase and donation, ranging from a small and seminal purchase of items from Jan Kleylamp in 1925, to Captain A.W. F. Fuller's massive collecting activity in the early 1960s, to major donations as recently as 1998.