Summoning the Ancestors: Southern Nigerian Bronzes

16 September 2018–10 March 2019

Exhibition Overview


Artist unknown (Southern Nigeria). Quadrangular bells, 20th century. Copper alloy. Promised gift of Mark Clayton.

This Fowler in Focus exhibition celebrates the promised gift of two large marvelous collections of bronze bells and ofos amassed by Mark Clayton. Originating in southern Nigeria, the bells and ofos were used in a variety of ritual contexts. The selection presented includes examples large and small, richly adorned or spare in profile, and some that stretch our expectations about the fundamental meaning of what a bell is. Many appear in multiples, standing like kindred souls, one next to the other; others represent unique forms. The ofos derive from wooden staffs of power. As personal and communal possessions, they are used on ritual altars and represent the physical connection between ancestors and their descendants. Summoning the Ancestors is guest curated by Nancy Neaher Maas, independent scholar, and Philip M. Peek, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, Drew University, New Jersey.

Image © Fowler Museum at UCLA. Photograph Don Cole, 2018.

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