Student Interpretation → Robin Schrieber

  • Diviners Bag

Yoruba Diviner's Bag

A diviner would be the only person with the power to bridge the gap between humans and the gods, or Orisha. This connection with the supernatural was emphasized by all the beaded tools and accessories owned by the diviner, including a diviner's bag, or apo Ifa, which would be used to hold instruments used in divination. This bag is covered with numerous beaded designs and the colors of the beads make significant references to Yoruba cosmology. The interlace pattern, called ibo, is a very common motif seen throughout the Yoruba culture that is associated with kingship and alludes to the role of Ifa. The red triangles or zigzags reference the god Shango, whose power is manifest through thunder and lightning. Orunmila, the god of wisdom and founder of Ifa divination, is represented here through the blue and white beads, which express the deep-thinking and reflective nature of the diviners.

Diviner's Bag

Diviner's Bag (apo Ifa)

Yoruba people
20th Century
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.

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