Bowl with Figures, Ocheogwu Shrine



Bowl with Figures, Ocheogwu Shrine


Container, ceramic


late 19th-early 20th Century


West Africa, Nigeria, Benue River region


11 7/8 x 11 7/16 in. (30.2 x 29 cm)

Object Number



These vessels are from northeastern Igboland, in Nigeria. Bowls of this type are shrines called ocheogwu, which means "pot of medicine." They were installed in gardens or near the entrances to the homes of blacksmiths and diviners. Perched on the rim of this ocheogwu shrine are sets of male/female pairs. Not all ocheogwu shrines contain figurative images. However, if divination (a process that seeks to foresee events and garner hidden knowledge) reveals that the deity of the shrine wishes one, vessels like these will be created. The figures are therefore the potter's personal interpretation of the deity's request. Called ntekpe, or "children of the shrine," the figures serve as guardians of the bowl's contents. The vessels were used to hold purified water, sometimes mixed with medicines. The water was obtained from rivers and streams associated with the deity to whom the shrine was dedicated.

Credit Line

Ex coll. William S. Arnett


Art of Nigeria from the William S. Arnett Collection, Michael C. Carlos Museum, October 15, 1994 - January 2, 1995|
Five Continents-Nine Millennia, Atlanta Hartsfield Airport, International Concourse E, March 1995 - November 1996|
The Art of Collecting: Recent Acquisitions at the Michael C. Carlos Museum, Michael C. Carlos Museum, November 8, 1997 - January 4, 1998|
Spirited Vessels: Creation and Ritual in African Ceramics, Michael C. Carlos Museum, February 7 - April 11, 2004|
Divine Intervention: African Art and Religion, Michael C. Carlos Museum, February 5 - December 4, 2011
Marcilene K. Wittmer and William Arnett, Three Rivers of Nigeria: Art of the Lower Niger, Cross, and Benue from the Collection of William and Robert Arnett (Atlanta: High Museum of Art, 1978), 109, number 256.|
MCCM Newsletter, December 2003 - February 2004.


© Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. Photo by Michael McKelvey.
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“Bowl with Figures, Ocheogwu Shrine,” Michael C. Carlos Museum Collections Online, accessed June 3, 2020,

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