Cloth, glass beads, thread, cardboard, iron
28.5 cm (11.2 in)
Fowler Museum at UCLA. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. James Strain. X91.159
This beaded bag is for an Ifa diviner or perhaps an Egungun masker. A Yoruba bead artist has transformed a European ladies’ handbag, cloaking it in stark white beads and humanizing it with multiple faces. These faces, on the sides and ends of the bag, bears dudu eyes (deep blue/black) and white noses. Blue beaded loops with single white beads mark the corners at the bottom; asymmetrically-spaced bands of hot pupa (red and yellow) beads punctuate the strap handle. This is no ordinary purse, but a ritual container. It may have been either for a diviner or perhaps an apidan Egungun masker, one of the playful “miracles” such as Ibeji (Twin) or Iyawo, who appear with purses to collect gifts from appreciative audiences. The irregularly spaced bands of red beads may suggest a Sango reference, and thus perhaps Egungun. The patterning of the white-on-white beads consists of a border around two horizontal registers divided by diagonals lines that create a series of diamonds and triangles, as we have seen in so many other works.
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 232