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Unknown Maker
Divination Tapper (Iroke Ifa)
19th-20th century

In Yoruba cosmology, two gods, Orunmila and Eshu, mediate between divinities (orisa) and humans. As Orunmila is the orisa of destiny, people seek his help in gaining knowledge of their fate and how to manipulate forces in their favour. However, to do so, they must also call on Eshu, who is both the messenger of the gods and presides over chance and disorder. The process for such consultation is known as Ifa, and the diviner who conducts the ritual is a babalawo.The babalawo employs a tapper, or iroke, as seen here, in conjunction with a divination tray (see M84-122). He taps the iroke in the centre of the tray to attain the attention of Orunmila and Eshu, and sprinkles wood dust on its recessed circular plane. The babalawo throws sixteen palm nuts a number of times to determine a configuration of marks drawn in the wood dust. The signs thus achieved direct him to chant certain verses. When the attentive client has recognized a verse that relates to his situation, the babalawo undertakes the next step in the Ifa process.Carved from ivory, this tapper features a kneeling woman holding her breasts, a gesture of respect and supplication. Incised cross-hatching and straight lines embellish either end of the implement.

 
Unknown Maker
Yoruba peoples
Divination Tapper (Iroke Ifa)
19th-20th century
ivory
21.0 x 5.1 cm
Gift of Justin and Elisabeth Lang, 1984
M84-021

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