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Tribal: African Yoruba


African Yoruba
AFRICAN YORUBA BEADED WORKS. When Yoruba people say that 'Irinisi ni isonilojo', they mean that we are what we wear, and that you wear what you are. Clothing and appearance, according to Yoruba people, reveal both the apparent self and the real self behind the cloth.

Yoruba leaders say "let the wheel spin delightful yarns, because one costumes reveal one's 'character' ". Even though he is the most powerful person in any Yoruba community, the king must still sport royal robes, or you might take him for a commoner.

The 'ade ileke' or beaded crown is the most significant emblem and embodiment of authority worn by Yoruba kings. Commoners or pretenders to the the throne must not wear these items, or they will be confiscated, sometimes on pain of death. Since the usually shaved head of the king must never be left uncovered, the 'orikogbofo' is a small beaded top that adorns his head when he is seen in court or in his private chambers.

A classical example of the 'ade nla' with its conical shape and colourful beaded patterns, this piece also depicts freestanding bird images and an intricately beaded veil hanging from the base of the cone. A short stem surmounted by the perching bird represents the royal 'opa' or staff of office, while the avian figures attached to its body represent the eminence of the 'iyami', the powerful Yoruba women referred to as witches.

The 'ibo ileke' is a sealed beaded container with potent powers whose contents are known only to the king and those who sealed it. Many rulers have specially beaded ibo designed for them, which are kept for specific rituals. The structures have multicoloured patterns, which the Yoruba people regard of great importance.

Oxford University Press
edited by John Mack

"Beads, Body and Soul:Art and Light in the Yoruba Universe"
Los Angeles, Fowler Museum of Cultural History 1998
J.H. Drewal and J. Mason

View Works By The African Yoruba

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