Cloth, felt, glass beads, cardboard
L: 175 cm, W: 18.5 cm, D: .5 cm (L: 68.8 in, W: 7.2 in, D: .19 in)
Fowler Museum at UCLA. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Jeffrey Hammer. X91.1637
On the paired panels, two yellow figures hold staffs and war European style hats. The blue figures are Yoruba hunters, their distinctively tailed caps on their heads and guns in hand. Between these figures are backward-facing dogs and birds, posture probably derived from European heraldry. The dog is the constant companion of hunters, and the bird evokes those gathered at the tops of Yoruba crowns. The birds signify the spiritual powers of women so crucial to success and longevity. Below are rams’ heads, a primary Owo-Yoruba symbol of power, protection, perseverance, and vigilance. The sword sheath repeats many of the same motifs – birds, equestrians, interlaces – and adds monkeys. Monkeys hold multiple significances in Yoruba art. Some are regarded as sacred among the Owo-Yoruba, where they serve as a metaphor for the courage and strength to defend one’s home and property. In Oyo they are associated with the thundergod Sango. In many Ifa verses, monkeys are portrayed as cunning tricksters who sometimes pay for their crimes and at other times escape by outwitting their adversaries. We might, therefore, imagine that the wearer who proudly brandished this udamalore sheath intended to proclaim his own wit and audacity for the delight and edification of his admires.
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 239