This page is a record of an exhibit that took place
in 2001. The individual links below will take you to
the CURRENT VERSION of the pages
that formed part of that exhibit.
NEW CATALOG ONLINE of this exhibition, Follow links below for images,
sizes, prices and more information
Six exciting and varied groups of works are featured in our second summer selections exhibition.
Divination Objects were used to communicate with gods, spirits and ancestors to understand or influence one's fate. Many African works fit that definition but our exhibit focuses on the Yoruba people of Nigeria. It includes many wonderful examples of their divination trays (opon Ifa) on which the sacred signs (odu) were traced, bowls (agere Ifa)which contained the 16 palm nuts to be cast, beaded bags (which carried tools and supplies) and tappers ( which were tapped to summon and greet the spirits). The quality of the pieces enhanced the diviner's status and inspired confidence in their skill. We also have several Kuba animal friction oracles and a Baule mouse oracle (gbekre) on display.
YORUBA, IFA DIVINATION TRAYS
Divination (Ifa) is practiced to explain misfortunes and help to prevent them. The diviner, in consulting a diety, manipulates sixteen palm nuts, reads the patterns they form and marks the results on a divination board, opon Ifa, sprinkled with wood dust. The marks indicate verses that should be chanted as prayers.
YORUBA, IFA DIVINATION BOWLS
Divination bowls, agere Ifa, are receptacles for the sixteen sacred palm nuts used in divination.
YORUBA, IFA DIVINATION BAGS
Used to carry divination objects and tools, the bags are worn in public ceremonies by Ifa priestesses and used and displayed in their homes. Beads were signs of wealth and status. The quality of the bags and other objects enhanced the diviner's status and inspired confidence in their skill. The beaded front lifts up to reveal a pouch on the back panel.
YORUBA, IFA DIVINATION TAPPERS
Divination tappers were used to summon and greet the spirits to the divination ritual.
YORUBA, OFFERING BOWLS
These bowls are used to hold kola nuts as offerings of hospitality or as receptacles for the sixteen sacred palm nuts used in divination.
EWE WOMEN'S TEXTILES (SMALL SIZE) (1-12)
EWE MEN'S TEXTILES (LARGE SIZE) (1-12)
EWE MEN'S TEXTILES (LARGE SIZE) 2 (13-20)
Living in southeastern Ghana and the western border area of Togo, Ewe weavers are renowned for the high quality od their cotton, strip-woven wrappers. Not confined by the court-regulated designs for Kente cloth of their eastern neighbors, the Asante, the Ewe men have traditionally been free to express their skill and creativity to please individual clients as well as a market which extends throughout West Africa.
Individuals of means commission cloths called adanudo ("skilled/wise cloths") studded with symbolic figural motifs of people, plants, animals and objects. These enhance the colorful weft blocks and geometric designs and are associated with proverbs and meanings of the Ewe culture. Many motifs, as would be expected from the clientele which orders them, are symbols of status and prestige.
The aesthetically pleasing overall balance of the wrapper, enlivened by these syncopated visual beats in the design, creates an artistic tour de force. The cloths are meant to be worn by their owners, adding yet another dimension to these examples of "African art in motion." Small size cloths, about 4 x 6 feet, are worn sarong style by women; large cloths, about 7 x 11 feet, are worn toga style by men.
Kirdi beaded aprons, cache-sex jewelry called "pikuran", denote age, status and social condition. They were worn to attract attention and protect against evil. Our examples show a wide range of colorful, abstact patterns.
Some Nupe posts are massive architectural supports, some are tall (up to 10 ft.) and thin, some are short altar posts, but all are impressively carved with abstract Brancusi-like forms. Many are mounted, some are hung as wallpieces.
SUKU "HEMBA" HELMET MASKS
From the Suku people of Dem. Rep. of Congo we have an outstanding group of Hemba helmet masks, worn during male initiation ceremonies, which represented all departed ancestors. Mourning songs were sung during the ritual, the vertical lines on the face are tears. Most have their original massive raffia collars.
We have a selection of Chokwe "Mwano Pwo" headdresses which represented ideal young female beauty. Usually elegantly carved, they have a serene expression, facial scarification patterns, filed teeth and inventive hair styles.