Yoruba Oracle bowl “agere ifa”, Nigeria
Wood, dark brown patina
H: 16 cm (6,3″), W: 16 cm (6,3″)
This is a very fine example of a divination bowl. Despite its advanced age and that it has been used eagerly, it is in an extremely fine condition except for a few cracks in the ‘ring’ and the ‘base’ as a result of changing weather. The cracks are only a few centimeters into the wood.
The divination bowls serve for keeping the 16 sacred palm nuts (“ikin”) that are manipulated during the ritual and are used for the questioning of the oracle. During the prophecy, the “babalawo” (priest) spreads the “opon ifa” with flour, throws the palm nuts on the board and generates the oracle from the lines drawn on the plate. The “ifa” oracle is used in whole Yoruba country and similar soothsaying systems are known all over West Africa.
Ifa divination implements include a wooden or ivory tapper with which to signal the diety; a wooden, or, rarely, ivory container (agere Ifa) for the 16 sacred palm nuts that are manipulated during the ritual; and a wooden board or tray on which the diviner makes the mark(s) of an odu, the corpus of verses that prescribe the action necessary to assure success” (Bascom 1969: 70-71, 80).
Age: Early 20th century.
Provenance: Private Danish collection. It was either acquired directly from Lau (Laurence) Sunde’s collection in Copenhagen, which dates back to the 1940s, or Lau (Laurence) Sunde was an adviser to the collector.
Sunde had a “Etnografica” boutique in 1948, that became recognized among collectors as the most specialized boutique of its kind at the time. Tribal and oriental artefacts were purchased from private collectors as well as at auctions in Paris, Amsterdam and London, among other places.
Full description of Lau (Laurence) Sunde will be forwarded by request.
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