Lot: 258

Figural headpiece of an oracle tapper "iroke" for the "ifa" divination, 19th century

Nigeria, Yoruba, Owo

Provenance Size Starting price / estimated price
Nancy & Richard Bloch, Sante Fé, USA
Sotheby's London, 2 July 1990, Lot 100
Baudouin de Grunne, Wezembeek-Oppem, Belgium
Serge Schoffel, Brussels, Belgium
H: 7 inch 15000 EUR / 30000 EUR

ivory, pigment, inventory no. "210", base Oracle tappers are always surmounted by kneeling female figures. They represent all those, who seek the wisdom "orunmilas" in order to learn more about their own destiny. Since Yoruba women give birth while kneeling, the kneeling figure is also meant as an allusion to the life-giving power of women, on which all human life depends. "Ifa" is a system of divination through which a person may discern the forces that are shaping his life and learn how to respond to them. The deity to whom divination is directed is "orunmila", the "orisha" who was present at the creation of the universe and knows its secret. At the beginning of each divination session, the "ifa" priest needs the "iroke" to invoke the primordial diviner "babalawo" and the divine powers ("orunmila") to participate in the following rituals by rhythmically striking the divination board "opon ifa" and chanting prayers. The "ifa" figures, lateron used for soothsaying, were marked with wood flour "iyerosun" (produced by termites) spread on the tray.


Homberger, Lorenz (Hg.), Yoruba, Zürich 1991, p. 22 f. Fagg, William, Yoruba, Sculpture of West Africa, New York 1982, p. 172 f.
Schoffel, Serge, "Orisha Yoruba", Brussels, 2019, p. 28-29
Exhibited:

Brussels, Belgium, BRAFA - Brussels Antiques & Fine Arts Fair, 26 January - 3 February 2019

ADHRC: 0102559

This object is subject to CITES. Please note that it can only be sent within the European Community. At the present time export in third countries is prohibited.