|Circa 1920 or earlier, Yoruba People, Nigeria|
This Yoruba divination bowl is particularly finely carved. The figures are particularly well defined and well spaced, enhancing the bowl's overall sculptural value.
The bowl’s hemispherical basin has black and red triangles about the rim. The supports are carved as various well-observed figures including one onhorseback, one with a flintlock gun, one suckling a child and with a round box balanced on her head, another carries a barrel balanced on his head, andanother carries an older child on his shoulders who appears to be carrying a shango staff and has a gourd drinking bottle strung behind his back.
Light coloured pigments are still visible on the figures' clothing and hair.
The scene is particularly fluid and dynamic: each of the figures seems to move with great purpose, no more so than a figure of a small girl who wears a largehat and carries a bag over her left shoulder. She stands right on the edge of the base but then leans right out beyond it.
The bowl has a fine patina consistent with a circa 1920s dating. There is some old, shrinkage-related cracking to the wood as is usual. The bowl itself has acrack with some evident re-gluing and an old mend. Most of the figures are in perfect condition; one has the minor loss of a hand.
The piece was acquired in the UK and most probably has been in the UK since the colonial era.
See Lot 110 in Christie's 'Important Tribal Art and Antiquities from the Collection of William A. McCarty-Cooper', New York, May 19, 1992, for an ifa bowlcarved in a similar style, and possibly by the same carver as this example. According ot the lot description, William Fagg suggested that the carver of theMcCartney-Cooper bowl could be Olumole Falade of Iseyin. Another suggestion mentioned is that the bowl is the product of the Ketu-Yoruba at Meko,perhaps from the workshop of Duga.
Such bowls were essential for rituals in which fate or prophecy (ifa) was divined. Ifa divination was used to transcribe the wisdom of Orunmila, the spirit ofwisdom, divinity and prophecy in Yoruba mythology. A highly-trained priest, the babalawo, taps rhythmically on a tray (the opon ifa) with a tapper (the iroke ifa)to invoke the presence of Orunmila. A divination bowl such as this example is used to contain the sixteen sacred palm nuts (ikins), which must have at leastthree ‘eyes’.
During the divination process, the diviner divides the nuts between his hands. The nuts left in the original hand, desirably one or two, are counted andmarked. As the divination proceeds, the diviner continues to mark single or double marks in wood powder spread on his divination tray until one of the 256recognised odus is created. (An odus is a set of accepted traditional binary patterns or codes that have evolved over thousands of years of observation andprediction. They provide guidance on both the everyday and the spiritual.)
According to Yoruba mythology, the warthog was the most beautiful creature of the all animals at the time of creation. Its head was decorated with gems.However, the gods were disgusted by the warthog’s habits, his rooting around in the mud, and so on. They replaced the gems with warts and the gems wereentrusted to the python instead.
The python, which symbolises the rainbow, safeguarded the gems by burying them at the point where the rainbow meets the earth. The warthog threatened tokill the python, but still he did not return the gems. Incensed, the gods sent messenger deities (the eshu) in the form of hunters to protect the python. Thisbowl is a clear reference to this story, with the hunters representing the eshu who are attempting to rescue the python from the warthog.
|Location of Origin: Africa|
|Dimensions: height: 19cm, width at widest point: 24cm|
|Primary Classification: Ethnographic & Tribal Arts : African|
|This bowl is similar to one in the William A. McCarty-Cooper Collection that was sold at Christie’s New York in 1992. Arguments by the ethnologist William Fagg that the McCarty-Cooper example is the work of Olumole Falade of Iseyin are cited in the catalogue. The Falade school or house of woodcarvers founded by Olumole in the mid-nineteenth century favoured hunting scenes with warthogs and other animals in close encounters with hunters. Olumole himself is believed to have died around 1915.|
Today, the Yoruba people form one of the largest tribes in west Africa. They number around 30 million and are predominant in Nigeria where they comprise 21 per cent of the population. Most Yoruba speak the Yoruba language. Today, 60 per cent are Christians and another 30 per cent are Muslims. But many, especially in rural areas, still practise old Yoruba traditions such as those based around ifa.
References:Christie’s New York, ‘Important Tribal Art and Antiquities from the Collection of William A. McCarthy-Cooper’, May 19, 1992.Fagg, W. & Pemberton, J. III., Yoruba: Sculpture of West Africa, Collins, 1982.Rowland, A., Drewal, H. J. & Pemberton, J. III., Yoruba: Art and Aesthetics, Museum Rietberg, Zurich, 1991
|Provenance: UK art market. The piece was acquired in the UK and most probably has been in the UK since the colonial era.|
|Price:||This dealer requires clients to be approved in order to view their contact information and pricing information.|
|Offered By:||Please register and login to see Dealer/Gallery information.|
|This dealer requires clients to be approved in order to view their contact information and pricing information.|
Please login before inquiring about this item, or adding it to your Favorites list. If you do not have a client login, please register.