Picture copyright of the musée du Quai Branly.
taken from http://actesbranly.revues.org/213#quotation
Dahomean war god Gu (from what is now Bénin), here photographed as it was in the former “Musée d’ethnographie du Trocadéro” in Paris, end of the 19th century.
Artist: Akati Ekplekendo, from Doumé, north of Abomey, république du Bénin;
date: between 1818 and 1858.
It is entirely made out of cast iron.
It was captured as well as its sculptor by the Dahomean king Glélé when he besieged the city of Doumé. It became a symbol of power and a supernatural trophy for the kings of Abomey, who practised sacrifices to enliven the statue, that was brought from the palace to battlefields to support the troops, where it was believed to come alive and participate in the battle (M. Murphy, in « Du champ de bataille au musée : les tribulations d’une sculpture fon », in Histoire de l’art et anthropologie, Paris, 2009). M. Murphy develops the idea that it was then subsequently used by the French as a military trophy in their ethnographic museums after Dahomean king Gbéhanzin’s defeat at their hands (1892). It then became a symbol for the anti-establishment poets and modern artists in early twentieth century Paris. It was then considered by poet Apollinaire as a world masterpiece.
It is now located in the Pavillon des Sessions in the Louvre museum in Paris.