X70.692 Neck pendant

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Neck pendant
Yoruba peoples
Wood, beads, string, leather, metal
H: 10.5 cm, W: 4.0 cm, D: 5.0 cm (H: 4.1in, W: 1.5 in, D: 1.9 in)
Fowler Museum at UCLA. Gift of the Ralph B. Lloyd Foundation. X70.692


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 243

Worn on the wrists of devotees of Esu-Elegba, the divine messenger/mediator and owner of ase, these miniature altars glorify the deity as the protect and distinguish their owners. Based on the distinctive ear shape and coiffure treatment, this pendant was probably carved by a young carver at the Esubiyi Workshop in Abeokuta. The embellishment of the ogo with beads signals several things. First, the owner demonstrated loving devotion and care by enhancing this miniature form. Second, he or she has used the beads to encase the added power substances, transforming this small amulet (which would have received a sanctifying bath when first completed) into a more powerful one with added capabilities. The bead design supports this idea with a series of ever-increasing colored diamonds and triangles that have a dynamic quality suggestive of Esu performative powers of ase. Multiplications of this pendant form may be seen in the dangling carved and blackened figures of female and male Esu-Elegba devotees. These are worn around the neck of the devotee often embellished with pennies, cowrie shells, and other attachments. An even more elaborately bedecked work is a shrine centerpiece carved circa 1950 by Ogunbayo Akiode of the famous Esubiyi sculpting family at Abeokuta. Note the distinctive necklace with a series of large imported European glass beads (like those on a merchant’s bead sample card) suspended horizontally, the strands of other small beads, a chain necklace, and a cowrie-beaded panel.