Yoruba Wooden Divination Bowl Supported by a Woman with a Child on Her Back - PF.6109
Origin: Nigeria
Circa: 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 10.5" (26.7cm) high
Collection: African
Style: Yoruba
Medium: Wood


This sculpture is imbedded with a magical power. Kola nuts, a symbol of fertility, would have been placed inside the bowl as an offering for the gods. This would have been one of the most sacred gifts offered to the gods. The carving depicts a kneeling mother holding a child on top of the back of her extended legs. The mother reaches back and grasps the legs of her child while the baby grabs her from underneath her arms. The distance between the two figures results in the exaggerated elongation of their limbs. The sculptor otherwise has paid great attention to the faces of both the figures, detailing the decorative scarifications on their cheeks that signify their tribal identity and rank within the social hierarchy. The mother’s conical breasts have also been emphasized, further accentuating her fertility. The rim of the bowl grows out of the mother’s head has been finely finished and smoothly polished. Considering the subject matter of the sculpture, it is safe to assume that this bowl had a specific spiritual function relating to fertility, both in regards to the land and the tribe. This diminutive sculpture has a power far greater than its size suggests, a power to invoke the will of the gods and the favor of ancestral spirits. - (PF.6109)



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