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Bruce and Adele King

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Image of Opon Ifa (Divination Tray)

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unknown Yoruba
Yoruba Primary

Opon Ifa (Divination Tray)

20th century
Carved and incised wood

11 1/4 in. (diameter) x 13/16 in. (28.5 cm x 2 cm)
Gift of Bruce and Adele King, in memory of Nicole M. King, Class of 1986

Bryn Mawr College
Accession Number: 2003.27.3
Other Number(s): King Collection TN-5 (Temporary Number)
Geography: Africa, Nigeria
Classification: Ceremonial and Performance Artifacts; Ritual Objects
Culture/Nationality: Yoruba, Nigerian, West African, African
Collection: King Collection
This divination board is used by babalawos (priests or diviners) as a form of mediation between human beings and the orisha Orunmila. In order to communicate with the spirit realm, the surface of the board is filled with wood dust and sixteen palm nuts or cowrie shells are cast into the dust. The combinations of shapes the nuts or shells form on the board correspond with a variety of messages from the oral tradition, which the babalawo will share with their client.

At the top of this board is the face of the orisha Eshu, the divine intermediary. It is impossible to communicate with Orunmila without first consulting Eshu, whose power and character are reflected on his face.

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Additional Image 2003.27.3_BMC_f_2.jpg
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Additional Image 2003.27.3_BMC_r.jpg

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<ref name=BMC>cite web |url= |title=Opon Ifa (Divination Tray) |author=Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections |accessdate=1/27/2022 |publisher=Bryn Mawr College</ref>

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