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Object Name: Ade Bayanni (cowrie crown)
Place of Origin: Nigeria
Cultural Group: Yoruba peoples
Materials Used: Cowrie shells, leather, cloth, wood, rawhide
Dimensions: L: 83 cm, Diam: 20 cm (L: 32.6 in, Diam: 7.8 in)
Credit line and Accession Number: Fowler Museum at UCLA. Gift of Helen and Dr. Robert Kuhn. X77.903
Cowrie crowns for altars are a primary symbol for orisa Dada-Bayanni, the elder sister of Sango. A gentle, loving person who abdicated the throne to her younger, more aggressive brother Sango, Dada-Bayanni accepted a crown of cowries rather than beads. Durin ceremonies, Dada-Bayanni devotees wear these objects as crowns. After Sango’s reign Dada came to the throne a second time. Long cowrie strands symbolize the dreads of Dada children, who are born with a thick head of hair. As the bead artist James Adetoye told me, Yoruba make such crowns for Dada Bayanni persons since “they are rulers (oba) from inside the womb,..they wear a crown [of thick hair].” Among the Ijebu-Yoruba, such a special children know as omolokun, “children of Olokum,” whose tight curly hair is likened to seashells on the head. The hair must not be cut until the cowrie crown has been made and consecrated. The four bands of cowries that come together at the top and the four divisions within the triangular panels may reference the numerology of Dada-Bayanni divination verses from Isorun Meji.
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 241.