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X86.4848b Staff sheath

 

Object Name: Staff sheath
Place of Origin: Nigeria
Cultural Group: Yoruba peoples
Materials Used: Cotton cloth, glass beads, thread
Dimensions: H: 136 cm, W: 21 cm, D: 1 cm (H: 53.5 in, W: 8.2 in, D: .39 in)
Credit line and Accession Number: Fowler Museum at UCLA. Gift of Helen and Dr. Robert Kuhn. X86.4848

A striking originality characterizes the style and imagery of this ewu opa orisa Oka. In the top panel, a devotee with a necklace and waist beads dances. Her forehead is marked by red and white vertical lines of efun (chalk) and osun (camwood), perhaps alluding to the deity’s role in assuring life-giving blood and semen a theme also suggested by her swelling womb. Below an abstracted interlace, a representation of an orisa Oko iron staff is flanked by tow slithering snakes. Snakes and iron announce the presence of Ogun, arbiter of justice, the one who kills prevaricators with one swipe of his bere kojo (sword). Below another interlace is a plumed, long-beaked bird evocative of “our mothers.” Below a series of concentric rectangular forms (perhaps meant to represent mirrors) is a striped reptile, probably a crocodile, whose form, colors, and patterning create an optical effect of positive/negative ambiguity; sometimes we see the reptile clearly, and at other times it seems to dissolve into a swelling human figure with enormous feet.

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 262

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