Tray

Tray

1900s

Wood

Diameter: 42 cm (16 9/16 in.); Overall: 3.2 cm (1 1/4 in.)

Gift of Drs. James and Gladys Strain 1993.235

Location

Description

In Ifa divination, the priest sprinkles wood powder over the smooth inner surface of a wooden tray. As the sacred palm nuts are cast, the diviner records the results by marking the powder with an ivory tapper. The markings reveal the proper chants to be recited.

The four faces carved on the tray's rim portray Esu, who bears sacrifices to the gods, and oversees the divination ritual. The kneeling figures are probably petitioners; one has a leashed animal for sacrifice. Other motifs include turtles, curled mudfish, and snails. These creatures, which can survive on land or in water, are symbols of the diviner's ability to connect the human and spiritual realms.

See also
Collection: 
African Art
Department: 
African Art
Type of artwork: 
Sculpture
Medium: 
Wood

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