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African Connections



Collector / Donor Statements

Map of Visited Countries in Africa



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Figure Representing the Deity Eshu

Name of Maker: Lamidi Fakeye
Ethnic Affiliation: Yoruba
Date of Production: ca. 1967
Locale: Ibadan
Country: Nigeria
Dimensions: h. 24 inches
Media: wood
Collector(s) / Donor(s): Nancy and George Axinn
MSUM Accession #: 7764.1

The Collector(s) / Donor(s)

George and Nancy Axinn have a great deal of experience living and working in other cultures as international development specialists. Both have been affiliated with MSU since the 1950s. They spent several years living in southeast Nigeria in the 1960s. George coordinated the Michigan State University / University of Nigeria (Nsukka) program, and Nancy conducted research and taught at the University of Nigeria's Nsukka campus in the field of home economics and family ecology. Both Nancy and George recently retired from the MSU faculty, but remain very active in their respective fields. George is currently Professor Emeritus in the Department of Resource Development at MSU. During their sojourn in Nigeria they did a good deal of traveling and collected a variety of objects, from textiles to wood figurative sculpture. They also befriended another MSU faculty member, Miriam Kelley, who was participating in the MSU Nsukka program from 1965-1969. Kelley, who sadly passed away in 1991, collected many textiles during her visit to Nigeria. These were bequeathed to the Axinns with the expressed wish that they be donated to the MSU Museum. In 1992, 1993, and 1995 the Axinns donated these textiles as well as a number of other important cultural artifacts that they had collected to the Museum.

Collector(s) / Donor(s) Statement

The Object(s)

This sculpture represents the Yoruba deity, Eshu. He is the messenger of the gods, an intermediary between the material world of humans and the spiritual world of the gods (orisha). The sculpture was carved by the famous Yoruba carver, Lamidi Fakeye in the mid-1960s. Fakeye is currently a senior art fellow at the University of Ife in Nigeria. Hew as born in 1925 into a family of carvers. It was only after having served a three-year apprenticeship with the famous carver Bandele in the late 1950s that Fakeye began receiving important commissions. Despite being a Muslim, Fakeye has been able to reconcile his profession with the proscriptions against figurative carving associated with Islam. Many of his commissions are for religious sculpture used in traditional Yoruba shrines. He also carves for Christian patrons—for instance, he carved the door panels for the Catholic church at the University of Nigeria at Ibadan. Fakeye's work has earned him an international reputation. In fact, his largest group of patrons have been non-Africans. Many visitors to Nigeria, like the Axinns, have collected his work. Fakeye's work is found in many museums and private collections around the world.

Further Information

Books and Articles

Haight, Bruce. Lamidi O. Fakeye. Holland, MI: DePree Art Gallery, Hope College, 1996.

Drewal, Henry John and John Pemberton III. Yoruba: Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought. New York: Center for African Art, 1989.

Haight, Bruce and Lamidi O. Fakeye. Lamidi Olonade Fakeye of Ila-Orangun, Nigeria. Kalamazoo, MI: Space Gallery, Western Michigan University, 1987.

Fagg, William, John Pemberton 3rd and Bryce Holcombe. Yoruba Sculpture of West Africa. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1982.

Carroll, Kevin. Yoruba Religious Carving, Pagan and Christian. London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1967.

Internet Resources


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