John Pemberton III writing about the present lot (in Yoruba Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought, New York, 1989, p.162) states: "Figure 169 illustrates a superb example of an arugba Sango carved by Areogun (about 1880-1954) of Osi Ilorin in northern Ekiti. In this sculpture Areogun has captured the graceful posture of a woman as she kneels to lift the heavy load that she has carried to the market. As a woman raises her arms in order to lift her load and place it on the ground, those around her will say: Isokale anfani! ("We wish you a good delivery!", meaning success in unloading). It is a phrase that is also used to address a pregnant woman who is approaching the time of giving birth. Hence, Areogun has taken a well-known scene and transformed it into a revelation of a devotee of Sango. As a line from the Sango-pipe puts it: "The gentle son, who observes the actions of his wife. The wife, who looks like an arugba Sango." In the strength of her composed face, beautifully framed by her upraised arms, and in the apparent ease with which she balances the large bowl above her head, Areogun conveys the ase of the devotee.
The iconography of the great bowl is of considerable interest. Faces are embossed on the front of the bowl and its lid. When making offerings to Sango, the devotee will touch his or her own forehead and then one or both of the faces of the bowl with the kola nut offering or the head and blood of the sacrificial victim. The faces are painted with dark indigo coloring, as is the face of the figure who lies prostrate on the lid. In an Ifa verse the supplicant is instructed to desire to be colored "black," (dudu), which means to be possessed of the deep knowledge, (the awo), of Ifa. For the wisdom of Ifa is like looking into an indigo dye pot; its hidden depths cannot be seen. The figure clutches in each hand a cock for sacrifice to the deity, and ose Sango hang from the outstretched worshipper's shoulders. On either side of the face on the lid are scenes carved in bas-relief of persons offering rams to Sango. In the scene to the right, Areogun has added the flute-playing figure of Esu. The remainder of the lid is decorated with a series of embossed ose Sango, and celts protrude on either side just above the hands of the central figure, enabling one to lift the lid with ease. Along the edge of the bowl is a series of triangular shapes reminiscent of the trailing edge of a laba Sango, the large leather bag carried by Sango priests.
Areogun's arugba Sango represents the burden and power of the devotee of Sango. It tells the celebrant about herself. The great central figure and those surrounding her are figures of composure and graceful power, even when kneeling as supplicants. She carries on her head the burden and power of Sango. It is not her physical ability to carry great weights, but her ase that is the very life and defines the iwa of the Sango worshipper. The darkly colored faces on the bowl and lid refer to the ori inu (the inner head or the personal destiny) of the one with the beautifully composed face below. The bowl is also a metaphor for the devotee's womb. It contains the evidence of Sango's power, a power which strikes unexpectedly, transforming and sometimes destroying, but also giving life. The god, whose ase is shown as thunder and lightning gives to his devotees the ase to bear his burden.