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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Divination Cup (agree ifa)

Photo: Elizabeth Mann

Divination Cup (agree ifa)

late 19th century

At times of misfortune and confusion, the Yoruba people of southwestern Nigeria rely on a sacred practice of divination. They seek out consultation with a priest called a babalawo or “father of secrets”. When he sits to begin calling on divine wisdom, he is surrounded by art that adds to his authority. This woman is lifting a vessel that once provided the diviner with implements to help clients face their circumstances with new clarity. Her nudity is a sign of respect, honoring the state in which the gods delivered her into the world.

Stylistically, this woman is a classic example of the Yoruba canon that prevailed before the 20th century, and is a complement to the Yoruba art in SAM’s Katherine White collection.

8 1/2" H
Gift of Gerard and Marianne Stora
Provenance: Raphael Stora (born ca. 1888, Nanterre, France-died 1963, New York, NY) Collection, Paris and New York, by 1920s; to his son, Gerard Stora, New York, to 2012
Photo: Elizabeth Mann
Not currently on view

Seattle Art Museum acknowledges that we are on the traditional homelands of the Duwamish and the customary territories of the Suquamish and Muckleshoot Peoples. As a cultural and educational institution, we honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future. We also acknowledge the urban Native peoples from many Nations who call Seattle their home.