Showcasing the art and ritual of the African and African-diaspora religions

Eleggúa statue

Catalog Number: B012


Ensemble: 37.0 x 14.0 x 13.0 cm; human figure only: 33.0 x 14.0 x 13.0 cm; Echú Ayé statue only: 5.0 x 3.5 x 3.0 cm


Ensemble: 14.5 x 5.5 x 5.0 in; human figure only: 13 x 5.5 x 5.0 in; Echú Ayé statue only: 2.0 x 1.4 x 1.2 in


Religion and Denomination: Santería (Cuba, Yoruba)
Country of Origin: China
Ethnographic Origin: Yoruba
Materials: Plastic
Usage: N/A
Detailed Description of Significance:

Elegúa is the messenger who mediates between the world of human beings and the world of the orichas, the Afro–Caribbean divinities of Santería/Ocha. Associated with the crossroads, and by extension with life decisions, Ellegúa has the power to abolish impediments to his followers’ success and to set his adherents on the right path. However, he can be capricious, and his trickster nature may intervene if he is not treated well. Partially for this reason, Ellegúa must be honored first in a Santería ceremony. Similarly, when other orichas are given sacrifices, Ellegúa must first get his share.

This innovative depiction of Elegúa features the oricha as a African man.  Before the introduction of this and other Chinese made resin figures the most common full-body representation of Elegúa had been litographs and plaster figures of the Roman Catholic saint El Santo Niño de Atocha, a child avatar or apparition, of Jesus Christ.

  He is painted in the colors sacred to Elegúa—red, black, and white—and he wears beads like those of an Ellegúa devotee. He stands on a pile of cowry shells, symbols of wealth that are also featured in statues of Echú Ayé, another version of Elegúa.

Indeed, this figure includes a removable miniature of Echú Ayé, who in Cuba generally takes the form of a cement or stone figure packed with powerful substances and given cowries for his eyes and mouth. The small, antenna-like protrusion on this miniature represents the knife that protrudes from larger Echú Ayé statues, and allows it to slice through the practitioner’s troubles. This protrusion also recalls the creative powers of the phallus and the feather of royalty.

The fact that the human figure in this statue carries the smaller Echú Ayé on his head may refer to the importance of the head as a source of personal power among Santería practitioners. However, befitting Ellegúa’s status as an active divinity who values freedom, kinetic energy, and mischief, the smaller piece of this two-part statue has a propensity to come loose and fall off, and the antenna-like projection on top has already broken off and been repaired.