X65.9948 Neck pendant with beaded fringe

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Neck pendant with beaded fringe
Yoruba peoples
Wood, leather, glass beads, iron
46 cm (18.11 in)
Fowler Museum at UCLA. Gift of the Wellcome Trust. X65.9948


Such pendants may be worn by many individuals, whether royalty, priests, diviners, elders, or warriors. The pendant’s facial style suggests a provenance among the southern Oyo. The carved wooden face is hollow at the back and covered tightly with leather to provide a compartment for empowering substances, items with ase to perform certain functions. The multiple, incised triangles covering the forehead probably do not represent a coiffure but rather provide an oblique reference to the ibori, the symbol of the person’s inner, spiritual head and destiny. To wear such a pendant is clearly a sign of self-reflexive action and protection, and concern for one’s future. The beaded fringe serves to finish, complete, and spiritually seal this chest emblem. The colors (and numbers) of the beaded strands do not appear to refer to any specific divinity or divinities.

Source: Drewal, H., Mason, J. (1998). “Beads, Body, and Soul – Art and Light in the Yoruba Universe”, Los Angeles: UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History. page 237