Front cover image for Art and oracle : African art and rituals of divination

Art and oracle : African art and rituals of divination

In many African societies, individuals rely on the wisdom and counsel of professional diviners to advise them about decisions that affect their future. While a vast array of approaches to divination--the way in which spiritual entities are consulted--are practiced in Africa, specialists are invariably trained to master complex bodies of knowledge, and to act as mediators with a spiritual ancestral realm. Many of the distinctive art forms featured in this exhibition were implements used by diviners to facilitate inquiries into their clients' problems. Others were originally prescribed by diviners to their clients as a means of enhancing their well being, alleviating certain chronic problems, or providing personal protection. Whatever their role in the divination process, the aesthetic power of the works considered profoundly enhanced lived experience.Works featured in the exhibition range from representations that relate to the intimate needs of individual patrons to those that reflect the collective concerns of an entire community. These take the form of cast brass, miniature protective items of personal adornment created in Burkina Faso, and a monumental, morally authoritative N'kisi Nkondi power figure from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Works from the Metropolitan's collection include a pair of figures created for a Baule diviner from Côte d'Ivoire, a janus figure designed to safeguard a Fon household in the Republic of Benin, and a kneeling female devotee depicted as a caryatid whose upraised arms support an ivory Ifa diviner's vessel from the Yoruba center of Owo
Print Book, English, ©2000
Metropolitan Museum of Art : Distributed by H.N. Abrams, New York, ©2000