Wonderful kneeling female Agere Ifa Figure from the Yoruba People made of wood and pigment, carrying a bowl. The figure has good age and shows much handling.
Such figures could well have been used in the divination process among the Yoruba called Ifa. Cowry shells, cola nuts, may have been kept in the bowl being carried by the woman. These objects were used by a Yoruba diviner who would throw them on the ground and read their pattern to determine the will of Orunmila, one of the major Yoruba deities who knows all, past and present. The diviner is one who can insure that we live in a state of balance and harmony and to lead us to a good life.
This Agere Ifa is carved in one of the numerous Yoruba sub-styles as would be expected from one of the largest art producing groups in Africa. Placed in a shrine such a figure could be a devotee of either Eshu or Shango, both major deities in the Yoruba pantheon. Offerings would be made to her leading to the bowl held by the figure. The figure was also used to serve kola nuts.
Among the Yoruba of Nigeria sculpture in service to ritual and religion is integral to life whether used during divination or masks worn or figural sculptures that are found in shrines or carried during ceremonies. There is a large corpus of Yoruba sculpture known and identified as to symbol and meaning identified to the various orishas or deities. Yoruba traditional religion has a structured pantheon of the deities known as Orisha numbering between 400 and 700 individual Yoruba gods that may share powers and attributes that are articulated in sculptural form.
R. F. Thompson: Black Gods and Kings: Yoruba Art at UCLA, (Los Angeles, 1971)
W. Fagg and J. Pemberton III: Yoruba Sculpture of West Africa, (New York, 1982)
H. J. Drewal and J. Pemberton III, with R. Abiodun Yoruba: Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought, (New York, 1989)
Lawal, B.: The Gelede Spectacle. Art, Gender, and Social Harmony in an African Culture. (Seattle, London 1996)
Witte, H.: A Closer Look; Local Styles in the Yoruba Art Collection of the Afrika Museum, Berg en Dal. 2004.