Cloth, wood, glass beads, thread
L: 28 cm, Diam: 2.5 cm (L: 11.0 in, Diam: 0.98 in)
Fowler Museum at UCLA. Anonymous gift. X87.1686
The sound and sight of such a tapper attracts worldly and otherworldly forces to the site of divination sessions. Beads of countless colors, like the uncountable and unseen cosmic forces invoked by the diviner, cover this conical tapper in a pattern that can be seen in several ways: as two oppositely spiraling lines defining diamonds; as interlaces; and as columns of bisected diamonds whose number seems to approximate the sixteen-plus-one major odu chapters of Ifa orature. As in so much Yoruba beadwork, triangles and diamonds (three- and four-sided forms) dominate. In Yoruba thought, the numbers three and four animate and balance the cosmic order: three are associated with change, action, potentiality, unpredictability, uncertainty, Esu-Elegba, the other orisa, and other various worldly forces; fours connote disclosure, discovery, understanding, knowledge, and the possibilities of wisdom through divination. The presence of the numbers three and four signals momentous beginning and important decisions. The division and subdivision of form recalls a Yoruba myth about the manner in which a single orisa became many: Orisha lived at the foot of a hill in a lonely hut, His only servant was a slave, who served him very faithfully but who hated him secretly. One day when Orisha had gone out, the slave climbed on top of the hill and when his mater returned home, he rolled an enormous boulder down onto him in order to destroy him. Orisha was smashed into thousands of little pieces. In other words, one great divinity became a pantheon of countless spiritual forces. Unity and oneness in the world turned to division, difference, and dynamism‚Äîthe interplay of multiple forces activating existence and affecting the lives of persons.
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 228