Beaded broom or whisk
Raffia, glass beads
L: 41.5 cm, W: 8.5 cm, H: 2.0 cm (L: 16.3 in, W: 3.3 in, H: .78 in)
Fowler Museum at UCLA. Gift of Mrs. W. Thomas Davis in memory of W. Thomas Davis. X76.1750
This form may be related to the ritual brooms (sasara and ebiri) associated with the orisa Obaluaye or Nana. Collected in Ibadan in 1973, it was said to be used for protective “magic for a domicile. Ritual brooms or whisks are implements of Obaluaye and Nana Buruku, deities associated with disease and pestilence such as smallpox or skin ailments. The sasara is made from many stiff mid-ribs of palm bound together and then decorated with leather and cowries. This whisk is more reminiscent of the knotting and beading of iko (raffia) fibers to create beaded necklaces used during the initiations of orisa devotees. Here, three deep purple and black beads have been threaded onto each raffia fiber. Ten fibers are bound together in each bundle and then knotted in a particular fashion for a certain length before each loose end is bound in a kind of handle. It seems likely this construction was meant to serve some protective purpose. At the time of its creation, incantations would have been voiced to add efficacy to the procedure. The calculated use of three beads on each fiber, the choice of color in the beads (purple/black), and the medium of raffia all point to ritual procedures appropriately enacted to activate unseen forces. Cowries, dark colors, and raffia often appear in the ceremonial attire of Nana initiates.
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 255