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Diviner's Bag (apo Ifa)
Cloth, glass beads, leather
Museum purchase, funds provided by the Caroline Julier and James G. Richardson Art Acquisition Fund
9 ¾ x 9 ¾ x 1 ½ in. (24.8 x 24.8 x 3.8 cm)
with strap: 19 ¾ x 9 ¾ x 1 ½ in. (50.2 x 24.8 x 3.8 cm)
Bags such as this would be used to carry a diviner's paraphernalia, such as palm nuts, diving chain and tapper. Beaded objects are generally the prerogative of royalty, and the importance of diviners as negotiators between the world of the living and the realm of the supernatural is underscored by their possession of beaded accoutrements. Certain colors and designs on beaded items reference Yoruba cosmology. The face is a symbol of the ancestors and recalls their sacred authority. The interlace pattern is a royal symbol that alludes to the role of Ifa. Triangles or zigzags reference the thunderbolts of the god Shango in red, and his wife Oya, in yellow. Blue and white are related to Orunmila, the god of wisdom, who is associated with divination.