X87.434 Ivory Ifa Tapper

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Ivory Ifa Tapper
Yoruba peoples
L: 32 cm (L: 12.5 in)
Fowler Museum at UCLA. The Jerome L. Joss Collection. X87.434


The worn surface of this Ifa tapper (iroke Ifa) is evidence of long use by a diviner, a “father of ancient wisdom” (babalawo). Diviners use the tapper to strike the center of the divination tray at the outset of divination to invoke cosmic forces and to emphasize points during their commentary and interpretation of Ifa orature. The broken and incomplete open end of the tapper may have had a clapper, thus transforming the tapper into a bell an providing another sound for invocations and songs during ceremonies. The motif of a kneeling female holding her breasts is a gesture of supplication, greeting, respect and devotion, all attitudes appropriate for one who comes to Ifa to address important matters. The marks on her cheeks, above her breasts, and on her thighs may indicate regional, community, or lineal affiliations, royal/non-royal status, or permanent beautification.

Source: Ross, Doran H. ed. (1994): “Visions of Africa”, Los Angeles, UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History. page 73