Married Men
There are many different kinds of social roles for married men in Africa. For traditional Igbo men of Nigeria, their responsibilities consist of building a large compound for their families, achieving high rank in the community and political organizations, providing bountiful agricultural harvests and livestock, and acquiring wives and many children.

An Igbo man's ability to attain success and status through his own efforts is shown in his personal shrine or Ikenga (like the one on the right). Ikenga means "place of strength." Every Igbo man has an Ikenga that represents his:

  • chi (ancestors)
  • acha (personal power)

The Ikenga is called a "shrine to the right hand" because it is with the right hand that men do important things like wield a tool or weapon, offer a sacrifice, or make a gesture during a public speech.

Some Ikenga are geometric and abstract, while others are more realistic. This Ikenga is an example of the geometric and abstract style. All Ikenga include horns coming out of a base.They suggest strength and vitality. More realistic versions might show a man seated on a stool with a sword in his right hand. As a man matures and becomes more successful, he will periodically replace his Ikenga with a larger, more elaborate version. The Ikenga is kept in a small shrine in the man's home. No one can reuse a man's Ikenga, and it is destroyed when the owner dies.

© Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University,
Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester and Dallas Museum of Art
For more information please contact
Last Update: