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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Yoruba Terracotta Vessels : Yoruba Terracotta Altar Vessel
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Yoruba Terracotta Altar Vessel - PF.4800
Origin: Southwestern Nigeria
Circa: 19 th Century AD to 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 13.5" (34.3cm) high x 9.375" (23.8cm) wide
Collection: African
Medium: Terracotta

Location: United States
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The Yoruba diviner uses nuts in the practice of his divination, which are kept in cups or bowls. This handsome and intriguing vessel bears a close resemblance to the iconography on Ifa divination trays with the face of the god Esu, guardian of the ritual process. The face seems an outgrowth of the stalk-like extensions shooting out from the head (forming the handle), down from the chin, and two on either side of the cheeks. As a god who exists somewhere between the real and phenomenal worlds, Esu would appropriately be seen elevated above material existence, and yet a fundamental part of daily life. The twin bowls may have been designed to hold kola nuts offered to guests. The markings on the lid and base continue the theme of vegetation, as if the clay has become a gourd, symbol of the Yoruba universe. Within this complex universe the forces of life, Ase, can be manifested in innumerable ways, just as an artist must depend upon the capricious nature of inspiration. It is the task of both diviner and artist to bring harmony to an inharmonious world through objects such as this vessel. - (PF.4800)


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