King Collection TN-5 (Temporary Number)
Ceremonial and Performance Artifacts; Ritual Objects
Yoruba, Nigerian, West African, African
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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- Refers to the cultures of the continent of Africa, which is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea.
- Refers to works executed by cutting a figure or design out of a solid material such as stone or wood. It typically refers to works that are relatively small in size, are part of a larger work, or are not considered art. For large and medium-sized three-dimensional works of art, use the broader term "sculpture" or another appropriate term.
- Motifs having the appearance of an eye, generally a human eye, as found, for example, painted or bossed on the bows of watercraft as protective devices, or, in Christian iconography, as the eye of God in the center of an equilateral triangle representing the Trinity. Distinct from "oculi (openings)" which are small round or oval openings such as windows in a wall or openings in the crown of a dome.
- Objects used for a particular ritual activity, often as part of a ceremony.
- Broadly, ceremonial objects that retain their sacredness in their present context. Sometimes defined more narrowly as only those needed by a present-day culture to practice their religion. For objects that are used primarily for a religious ceremony or function, but are not necessarily in themselves considered sacred, use "religious objects."
- Styles and cultures from the region comprising the westernmost area of the African continent, defined by the United Nations as including the modern nations of Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.
- The principal tissue of trees and other plants that provides both strength and a means of conducting nutrients. Wood is one of the most versatile materials known.
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This object was included in the following exhibitions:
Backtalk: Exposures, Erasures, and Elisions of the Bryn Mawr College African Art Collection
Bryn Mawr College
, Feb 5, 2015 – Jun 1, 2015
Owner Name: Bruce and Adele King, in memory of Nicole M. King, Class of 1986
Place: Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, US
Acquisition Method: Purchased in Ibadan, Nigeria from house to house traders
Ownership Start Date: 1962-1964
Ownership End Date: June 6, 2003
The following Comparanda exist for this object:
Henry John Drewal,
"Senses in Understandings of Art."
38, no. 2
Figure Number: 2.
John Pemberton, III
and Henry John Drewal.
The Yoruba Artist
(Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994),
Figure Number: 4-10, 4-11