Africa, Nigeria, ca. 19th century CE. A finely carved wooden divination board of a rectangular shape and an elaborately carved border featuring various figures, from one end to the other, a horse and rider, three standing frontally facing figures (one holding a bird, the other two holding ritualistic implements) wearing tunics that are intricately carved with abstract geometric motifs, three female figures (two kneeling and one sitting upon a stool), each one elaborately adorned with grand headdresses/coiffures, multiple neckbands, and bracelets, and carrying an infant strapped upon her back with a textile featuring a zigzag design pattern, a perched bird at the corner with nicely delineated stylized feathers, and finally, two standing male figures holding sceptors in each hand. The center of the board is depressed, carved to receive various sacred materials used during the divination process. The divination board boasts a rich, dark patina with charming signs of use - notice the tapping marks across the depressed center - red pigment remains on the surface. During the divination ritual, a highly trained priest known as as a Babalawo, which translates to "the father of ancient wisdom", sprinkles pulverised wood or yam flour onto the depressed central area of the board and then rhythmically taps the board with a tapper (Iroke Ifa) to invoke the presence of Orunmila, the Yoruban spirit of wisdom and divinity of prophesy and destiny. The divination process is a means of evoking Orunmila's wisdom. In 2005, UNESCO added the Yoruba divination system to its list of "Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity." A rare example replete with rich iconography, fabulous artistry, and layers of symbolic meaning. Size: 21" W x 34.5" H (53.3 cm x 87.6 cm)
Provenance: Ex-NYC collection, Ex Zemanek Munster, Wurtzburg
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