The Musée du Quai Branly, Paris has acquired an extraordinary Yoruba divination cup from Entwistle...
This striking 19th century vessel, agere ifa, from the Yoruba peoples of northern Oyo State in Nigeria, is an extraordinary combination of openwork sculptural architecture and ritual expressiveness. It's notable provenance includes the former collections of Paul Rupalley, Charles Ratton and Louis Carré
The sculpture represents not only a great achievement in expressive ingenuity but also a reflection of the personal concerns of the patron and the creative inventiveness of the sculptor
The vessel has been conceived as a dramatic figural tableau where three figures act as caryatids – two officials and a prisoner – as they face forward attentively while, together, they support the ritual bowl, ikin, on their heads. The bowl itself is formed by a wide rimmed hemisphere whose central depression is reflected between the heads of the figures
It is in this vessel that the Ifa priest, or babalawo, would have once stored the sixteen sacred palm nuts that are manipulated and cast down during the ritual for the consultation of Orunmila, the Yoruba god (orisha) of wisdom, knowledge, and divination, for intervention and to perhaps inspire compassion in those in whose hands one's future would appear to lie