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Ifa Divination Tray

Culture Yorùbá
Title Ifa Divination Tray (Opon Ifa)
Date 19th–20th century
Medium Wood
Dimensions Object: 19 3/4 × 1 3/4 in. (50.2 × 4.4 cm)
Overall (with mount): 21 1/4 × 1 3/4 in. (54 × 4.4 cm)
Credit Line Museum purchase with funds from Paula W. Sunderman, Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University
Accession Number 2014.1

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About this Work

According to traditional Yoruba beliefs, a pantheon of deities, known as orisa, and other spiritual forces are instrumental in determining the course of events in the lives of individuals on Earth. Still practiced today, Ifa divination is a way for people to communicate with these powers and determine how best to live their lives.

A priest, or babalawo, performs divination for a client, marking on a tray such as this the configurations resulting from throwing palm nuts or a divination chain. After a number of throws, the pattern that emerges directs the priest to one of 256 verses in the body of oral literature associated with Ifa. While the god Orunmila, also known as Ifa, is credited with teaching people Ifa divination, the face of Esu, messenger between gods and people and a trickster, is the deity typically positioned at the top of a divination tray, as in this example. Other images carved in relief around the border vary from tray to tray and depict figures and motifs associated with divination, with deities, and with daily activities.

Provenance research is ongoing for this and many other items in the Eskenazi Museum of Art permanent collection. For more information about the provenance of this artwork, please contact the department curator with specific questions.

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"Ifa Divination Tray | Collections Online." Collections Online. Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University, 2024.