Much of traditional African art is temporal and can be used for various purposes. Some use it to serve as personal adornment for reasons of status, age, or ethnic identity, or consist of pottery used for domestic water use.
It could also be a symbol for a secret society’s instruction or served as a decorative purpose by being on a sculpted door for a home. It might be sculpture or architecture that reinforces the prestige of a ruler or his courtiers, or a masquerade whose sole purpose is community entertainment.
The sculptor, Ben Enwonwu (1917-1994), was the son of a traditional artist and became Nigeria’s first contemporary art star. He was born to a traditional wood-caver. He was one of the second generations of Nigerian artist. Apart from the fact that he studied under Kenneth Murray, he was privileged to study in overseas through a Shell Company Scholarship in Britain. His training began under a British artist in Nigeria, and in 1944 he continued his training and education at multiple art schools and university, eventually receiving major commissions from Queen Elizabeth and the Nigerian state.
He is the mastermind behind the Sango sculpture which he created in 1964. The masterpiece stands in front of the Lagos head office of the National Power Holding Company of Nigeria (formerly NEPA). This sculpture was an outburst of one his realistic and abstract modes. His sculpture of Sango shows the muscular god holding his dance wand aloft, the crown that marks his kingship following the pattern of early crowns known at Ife.