all photos by the author

Scholars abound in the study of Ifá divination and its worship artifacts. The present study, however, focuses on the transfer of these artifacts from Òyó-Yòrùbá—their community of origin—to other parts of West Africa: Sábe-Yòrùbá in the Benin Republic and Ifè-Ana Yòrùbá in the Atakpame region of Togo (Fig. 1), especially the variations in iconography that have arisen over time. Ifá is a popular divination system in Yòrùbá communities, carried out by a babaláwo who throws sixteen palm-nuts (ikin Ifá), whose permutations result in any of the available 256 odù,1 or divination poems, of Ifá. These poems or storylines will shed light and proffer a solution to the problem of the babaláwo's client. Among the Yòrùbá, Ifá divination is carried out for a wide range of reasons, from attempts to know the esèntáyé/àkosèjáyé (destinies) of newborn children to finding out the reasons for the untimely deaths of sovereigns and the likely outcome of certain journeys or, generally, to foretell the future or know the likely outcome of events. The popularity of Ifá divination indeed led, in 2005, to UNESCO proclaiming it an intangible cultural heritage of humanity and listing it on the organization's Representative List in 2008.2 Traditional wooden artifacts of the Yòrùbá religion used in the worship and divination of Ifá include opón Ifá, ìróké Ifá, and agéré Ifá.

1

Map showing the diffusion trajectory of the Yorùbá people from Òyó (Nigeria) to Sábe (Benin Republic) and Ifè (Togo).

1

Map showing the diffusion trajectory of the Yorùbá people from Òyó (Nigeria) to Sábe (Benin Republic) and Ifè (Togo).

Opón Ifá and ìróké Ifá are selected in this study as cultural traits found in three Yòrùbá communities located in different geographical contexts. They were chosen with the aim of identifying shared commonalities and points of divergence in their iconography. Elsewhere, I established that some traditional Yòrùbá religious artifacts in wood have travelled from the west (Nigeria) to the east (Benin Republic, Togo), and even farther in West Africa (Akande 2015). I maintained that many of these artifacts have continued to maintain their archetypal model in their new environment. I further observed that these carved wooden paraphernalia (opón Ifá, ìróké Ifá, agéré Ifá, and Èsù, osé Sàngó, and Gèlèdé masks) are resilient because they have retained their iconographic features outside their original geographical locale, despite their displacement in time and space and the presence of extant autochthonous cultures of their new “worlds.” Furthermore, they have metamorphosed into cultural icons in their own right. The present study is a continuation of this work, focusing on the iconographic similarities and disparities in Yòrùbá opón Ifá and ìróké Ifá in Òyó-Yòrùbá, Sábe-Yòrùbá in the Benin Republic, and Ifè-Yòrùbá in Togo.

The Yòrùbá, one of the major cultural groups in Nigeria, are found mostly in Lagos, Òyó, Kwara, Èkìtì, Kogí, Òsun, Òndó, and Ògùn states in the southwestern region of the country. The 2006 population and housing census (the last actual counting) records them as constituting about 23.8% of the total population of Nigeria (National Population Commission of Nigeria, 2017).3

In times past, the Yòrùbá built large, strong empires and kingdoms. These expanded beyond their immediate domain to distant lands. For various reasons, ranging from war to dispute to economic and social reasons, large groups of Yòrùbá people moved from the central group to form communities of their own; that is, many from the core Òyó-Yòrùbá in Nigeria travelled to other lands to form independent Yòrùbá communities (Ojo 2017), including the two communities in this study. At its establishment, the Sábe-Yòrùbá community was simply an extension of the Òyó-Yòrùbá community. Unfortunately, during the imperialist colonial rule of the British, these two Yorùbá communities were partitioned into different geographical countries for administrative and ownership reasons.

According to scholars, Sábe-Yòrùbá people dispersed mainly from the Òyó-Yorùbá, westward, in the course of the expansionist wars of the Old y empire.4Morton-Williams (1966), Akinjogbin (1966, 1976), and Law (1975) have written extensively on the sixteenth to eighteenth century expansionist wars of Old Òyó toward the Benin Republic. In Morton-Williams' 1966 account, the Yorùbá armies from Old y attacked and subdued Dahomey (Benin Republic) around 1730 in order to gain access to the coast in a bid to expand its slavery business.

The account of the movement of the Ifè-Ana Yorùbá group from Ilé-Ifè (Nigeria) to Ifè-Ana (Togo) has been mostly oral and mythologized. Ajayi and Akintoye (1984) narrate a tradition that tells the story of the dispersal of the Yorùbá from Ilé-If to Togo and other parts of West Africa: When Odùduwà, the progenitor of the Yorùbá, became old and blind, he called his children together and ordered them to go and found kingdoms of their own, giving each one a royal scepter. The founding of all Yorùbá groups in and outside Nigeria is unceremoniously tied to this unsubstatiated account.

However, Gayibor (1992) and Odji (1997: 14–21) applied a plausible approach by chronologically collating a series of historical events in the oral traditions of the Ifè-Ana Yòrùbá people to arrive at a possible period of arrival in their present location and their possible place of origin. They conjectured that the people are from a quarter of Ilé-Ifè (Nigeria) and that their migration to their present location happened in two phases. The first phase, they believed, likely took place between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries ad.

Odji, in his account, indicates that in the first phase, the people moved from Ilé-Ifè through Òkè-Òyán (Nigeria), a presently unknown location, to Ifita, a region of Savalou, Benin Republic. At Ifita, Fon warriors incessantly raided the Ifè-Ana people, selling them off as slaves. Gayibor and Odji believed that this was the menace that made them move further, to their present location in the Atakpame region of Togo, around the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries (Odji 1997).

It is important to note that the entire people of Ifè-Ana Yòrùbá in Togo agree with the claim that they are from Ilé-Ifè, Nigeria. One compelling fact that resoundingly buttresses their claim is that, despite their long distance from the Òyó and Sábe-Yorùbá communities, they still speak a strong but seemingly archaic form of the Yorùbá language. Their Yòrùbá can be understood, to a large extent, by other Yòrùbá communities. Much more, they still have some Yòrùbá deities within the register of their pantheon. From this, we can safely say that the historical and cultural connection between the three Yòrùbá groups is substantial.

The Yorùbá migrants took their religion with them to their new communities. And they continued the worship of their gods and goddesses, such as Sàngó, Ifá, Egúngún, Gèlèdé, Ògún, Èsù, and Obalúayé, using the same ceremonial artifacts in their worship. Over time, these communities built up a corpus of religious artifacts, large enough to be compared and interrogated from several viewpoints.

From this scope of art objects, I focus on the iconography of opón Ifá and ìróké Ifá, two woodcarved paraphernalia of Ifá worship transferred from Òyó-Yòrùbá to Sábe-Yòrùbá and Ifè-Ana Yòrùbá. They were chosen in particular because of the remarkable iconographic variation observed in their characteristic features in the three communities. The third primary paraphernalia of Ifá, the agere Ifá, is left out because it has been a subject of extensive discussion by Roache (1974), Rowland Abiodun (1975, 1989, 2014), Drewal and Drewal (1983), and many other scholars.

In gathering data for this research, selected worshipers of Ifá—six in Òyó, four in Sábe, and three in Ifè-Ana—who use opón Ifá and ìróké Ifá were interviewed. A Focused Group Discussion (FGD) was organized in each of the communities. The FGD aimed to crosscheck the reliability of the information gathered from individual respondents and comprised leaders of Ifá worship, traditional rulers, and selected stakeholders in the Yòrùbá religion. Master woodcarvers (three in Òyó and two in Sábe) who carve opón Ifá and ìróké Ifá were also interviewed and video recordings and photographs of woodcarvings were made. The interviews were content-analyzed and the formal and iconographic analyses of the woodcarvings were done with the use of the video clips and photographs taken during the fieldwork.

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

This research is grounded in the iconography theory articulated by Anne D'Alleva in 2013. This theory—based on extensive knowledge of the Yòrùbá culture of woodcarving and its processes of image-making from oral interviews and literature (Carroll 1967; Drewal, Pemberton, and Abiodun 1989, 2014; Abiodun, Drewal, and Pemberton 1994)—engages the established characteristic features of traditional Yòrùbá religious artifacts in wood in Òyó and compares them with those of Sábe and Ifè-Ana. D'Alleva observed that iconology takes up where iconography leaves off. Iconology, she explains, is more of an in-depth study of how and why particular images or forms are chosen over others in the context of its user's culture. In employing D'Alleva's theory, this study highlights typical formal features of traditional Yorùbá religious wooden artifacts transferred in the process of interaction between Òyó, Sábe, and Ifè-Ana. It also enumerates associated implicative contextual iconology of such artifacts in their original homeland and in later, diasporic communities.

On the other hand, the diffusion theory is articulated in the present study as a form of mass movement of people and their art from Òyó to Sábe and Ifè-Ana at a specific time in history. Contrary to E.L. Jones's diffusion theory in The European Miracle (1981), where the pattern of dispersal is described as one from “superior” ideological and cultural Europe (Eurocentricism) to “lesser cultures,” the present study considers the three Yorùbá communities at par. Jones's definition of Eurocentricism presupposes Europe as a quintessential culture from where the “very best” obtains and is dispersed to the rest of the world (Jones 1981: 113). The present study recognizes that two (Sábe and Ifè-Ana) of the three communities originated from the other one (Òyó), and as stated previously, they all remain culturally one and are all authentic Yorùbá people. It is only the geographical locations and the virtue of Òyó being the source for the others that make the difference. It is equally important to bear in mind that members of the Sábe and Ifè-Ana communities agree that they were originally from Òyó-Yòrùbá stock, and they, indeed, speak the Yòrùbá language (although in different dialects). On the other hand, Òyó-Yòrùbá people and their history testify to the existence of Sábe and Ifè-Ana as Yòrùbá communities outside Òyó.

Despite the fact that the three communities were all originally from the same stock, it must be noted that they have existed as independent communities, in different geopolitical and religious space, for centuries. It is the premise of their independent existence over time and space that forms the fundamental basis of the comparison of their religion paraphernalia, which is what this study sets out to address. The premise is further pinned on the possibilities of the influence of extant autochthonous cultures that may have influenced or affected these artifacts in Sábe and Ifè-Ana.

This paper also intrinsically hinges on the theoretical postulations of Rowland Abiodun (2014), in his extrapolations of the applicability of Yoruba visual, performative, and verbal oríkì5 as a source for Yòrùbá aesthetic dialogue. He advocated that this is a means of realizing the complete essence of Yòrùbá artifacts. Before that, Abiodun (1990) had conjectured that the skill of aesthetic appreciation for Yoruba art objects requires the possession of Ìfarabalè (calmness), ìlutí (teachableness), ìmojú-mora (sensitivity), tító (steadfastness), ojú inú (insight), and ojú onà (design consciousness)—characteristic qualities of the critic. All these qualities, he observed, can help to draw out a complete contextual appreciation of the ewà and, invariably, ìwà of Yorùbá artifacts. Akin (1988) defined,ìwà as “the most significant goodness in a person.” In art, and in the present study, this definition may well be turned on its own conceptual pivot when the principle is applied to an object of art to infer the most significant goodness of such an object. In his own argument, Abiodun (2014: 245) stated that “ìwà deals with the full recognition and proper appreciation of the things in itself, the unique qualities of a specific object, as totally distinct from the generalized kind of which it is a part.” In line with this premise, this study recognizes “the generalized kind of which an object is a part” [italics mine] of Abiodun's statement as the shared commonalities of opón Ifá and ìróké Ifá from Òyó, Sábe, and Ifè-Ana, and “the unique qualities of a specific object” as the peculiarities of opón Ifá and ìróké Ifá from Òyó, Sábe, and Ifè-Ana. This study serves to draw out an unbiased ewà: the very essence of the ìwà (being) of the artifacts, within their contexts of existence from various Yoruba verbal arts, visual arts, and mythology. However, because Ìfarabalè, ìlutí, ìmojú-mora, tító, ojú inú, and ojú onà, as highlighted by Abiodun, are intrinsic personal qualities of a critic rather than aesthetic terms, these qualities have not been brought to the fore in the process of critiquing, but serve as residual background knowledge with which this research was carried out.

ÌRÓKÉ IFÁ AND OPÓN IFÁ IN ÒYÓ, SÁBE, AND IFÈ-ANA

According to Adegbindin (2017), “Ifá is a system of geomancy, one of the divinatory techniques used by the Yorùbá to gain knowledge of their complex cosmos and understand the intellectual configuration of the human universe.” The history of Ifá worship as recorded by scholars (such as Johnson 1921, Clarke 1939, and Abimbola 1977: 1)6 is, like that of many other Yorùbá deities, shrouded in mythology and is mostly in oral form. An uncommon tradition among the Ifè-Ana people narrated by Chief Olubuku, the Ariba7 of Atakpame, is worth citing: The 256 Ifon8 or Ifá ikpori9 was revealed to Ifon, a mythical personage, in a dream. Ifon was said to communicate with signs, as did his trained followers, the Ifè-Ana babaláwos, who were able to interpret his gestures and signs. A common feature of the traditions of the origin of Ifá in Òyó and Ifè-Ana is that both accept that Ifá divination has existed in their communities from time immemorial. All the myths of origin feature no recent event or occurrence.

This section discusses the Yorùbá ìróké Ifá and opón Ifá found in Òyó, Sábe, and Ifè-Ana, starting with an all-encompassing dialogue on the deity, Ifá, with whom the wooden object is associated and who is worshipped, followed by discussion of the iconography of the artifacts. The details of the iconography are derived from information gathered from existing literature and from worshippers of Ifá in Òyó, Sábe, and Ifè-Ana during the fieldwork. Examples of selected ìróké Ifá and opón Ifá from each community are analyzed and each artifact's conformity and points of departure from their archetypal models are identified and discussed. Iconographic features of the artifacts established by the worshippers and scholars are referenced as standards of measure for their iconographic conformities and disparities.

In our discussion of the iconography of opón and ìróké, two major aspects of their ewà10 were simultaneously engaged: their ewà òde (outer beauty) and ewà inú (inner beauty) (Lawal 1974). In our analyses of opón Ifá and ìróké Ifá in this paper, the ewà inú of the artifacts are the semiotic or implied connotations of forms and features of opón Ifá and ìróké Ifá. Also considered with ewà inú are the surrounding cultural connections and context of the artifacts. On the other hand, ewà òde deals with the iconography of the graphics and plastic qualities of the artifacts. The two (ewà inú and ewà òde) are closely interwoven and interrelated, combining to allow them to function as one complete paraphernalia of connection between the visible and the invisible worlds. The paraphernalia is mundane as well as sacred. William Fagg (1973) had long observed the need for multifaceted dimensions in the study of African art objects. He noted that to truly understand and do justice to the study of African art, its plastic properties must be studied alongside its cultural and religious contexts. Further supporting this position are the words of the sovereign ruler of Òyó, the Alaafin Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III,11 in a recent interview, where he repeatedly pointed at the importance of the concept of “duality” in Yòrùbá cosmology. He cited such examples as the dualities of ikú and ìyè (life and death), ako and abo (male and female), ire and ibi (good and bad), and sánpónó and olòwò (mundane and sacred) to reinforce the importance of examining art and performance in Yòrùbá-land from two angles. This concept of duality strongly applies to the paraphernalia of Yòrùbá religion, such as the ones we discuss in this paper.

It is the possession of the dual properties of the sacred and the profane by opón and ìróké Ifá that qualifies them to serve as religious paraphernalia with àṣẹ (their potency to make prayers and supplications “come to pass”). Àṣẹ, according to Abiodun (2014: 53), is the “effective energy” and “life force” characteristic of Yòrùbá visual and performative arts. It is in the bid to study the two capacities of African art objects that Abiodun suggested further search into traditional oral and perfomative arts that encapsulates Yòrùbá oríkí. He observed that, due to modernity and the lack of formal methods of recordkeeping, original meanings of the very essence of Yòrùbá arts have been long lost to history and can be mostly retrieved through the many Yòrùbá oral and performative arts. Henry Drewal (2016) also discussed the several dimensions (visual and sensory) of African art and how the development of a “sensiotic” (moving and intuitive) approach to the study of African art can help to ensure a deep understanding of the culture. The present study, therefore, at necessary junctures interrogates Yòrùbá aphorisms, odù of Ifá, mythology, and more in order to holistically debrief the commonalities and disparities of Yòrùbá opón Ifá and ìróké Ifá in Òyó, Sábe, and Ifè-Ana.

THE ICONOGRAPHY OF OPÓN IFÁ

Although elsewhere Pogoson and Akande (2011: 15–41) graphically described an Ifá divination session and the typical features of opón Ifá, it is again necessary to discuss these in the present study. Opón Ifá is usually carved in wood and is commonly circular or rectangular. Sometimes it may be shaped in both forms, like the Ulm opón Ifá, which Ezio Bassani (1994) pointed to as a model for later iconography. Opón Ifá is usually carved with a large, slightly sunken center surrounded by raised friezes. These friezes are generally between 2–6 inches wide. Ìyèrósùn (divination powder) is poured and spread in the sunken center of the tray to make visible the marking results of permutations from the four castings of the ikin Ifá (divination palm-nuts) and each casting is duly recorded. The raised frieze is decorated with low-relief patterns and forms.

According to Drewal, Pemberton, and Abiodun (1989), a typical Yorùbá opón Ifá can be divided into nine sections, with eight sections on the border, while the center of the opón (àárín opón) forms the ninth. On the friezes are ojú opón (“face of the tray”) located directly opposite the diviner, and esè opón (“foot of the tray”) located downwards, directly opposite ojú opón. To the right-hand side of the tray is onà ògánrán (“straight path”), the left is onà múnu (“direct path”). The interval between ojú opón and onà ògánrán, upper right, is alábàlótun (“one who proposes with the right”) and the interval between ojú opón and onà múnu, upper left, is aláselósì (“one who implements with the left”). The lower right interval between onà ògánrán and ese opón is called alílétépowó [sic]12 (“early riser who sits down and prospers”). Between onà múnu and esè opón is afùrùkèrèsayò [sic]13 (“one who has a diviner's flywhisk and is happy”). The sunken center of the tray, which is the àárín opón, is also called eríládé opón (“the center of the tray has the crown”).

Usually, the frieze of the opón Ifá is decorated with relief carvings depicting anthropomorphic and zoomorphic forms. According to Chief Fatokun Morakinyo,14 Oba Edu of Isale Òyó, the carver (gbénà-gbénà) has the freedom to improvise the shapes and images carved on the opón Ifá, except in cases where the babaláwo (Ifá diviner) instructs the carver what to carve. Morakinyo said that because many babaláwos buy their opón Ifá from carvers readymade, they may not have a say over the forms depicted on the tray. As distinct and seemingly unrelated as the forms on the borders of the tray may appear, it must be said that they are carefully chosen from a limited and accepted corpus of images that relate to the diviner, divination, and the cosmos within which the Ifá divination and the diviner exist. In the description of the iconography of opón Ifá, it will be observed that there is ètò.15 When the arrangement pattern on “opón bá wà l'étò ètò” (follows the prescribed order), it then qualifies to be an object “tí a fise àpónlé Ifá” (object in honor of Ifá), thus an object with àṣẹ.

Pogoson and Akande (2011: 15–41) submitted that it is only the ojú Èsù, usually located at the ojú opón, that appears fixed among all other decorations on the tray's border. All other decorative forms and patterns are left to the discretion of the carver and the specification of the user. The ojú Èsù is symbolic of the mythical association between Èsù and Ifá. Clarke (1939) traced the source of Ifá divination powers and origin to the phallic god Elegba (Èsù). According to Clarke, Èsù passed the divination powers to Ifá on Ifá's promise to give him a portion of all offerings made by those who consult him. Bolaji Idowu (1962: 19), in his own account, recorded that at the time of creation, Olodumare assigned duties to the divinities, and Èsù was the universal policeman and keeper of àṣẹ (divine power of being). All these and much more make the representation of oju Èsù an important feature of opón Ifá. It is the representative of àṣẹ on the opón, without which the ewà of the opón would be incomplete.

Chief Fatokun Morakinyo,16 the Oba Edu of Òyó town, cited odù ògbèfún to corroborate the close association that exists between Ifá and Èsù. The odù further supports the substantiated graphical representation of oju Èsù on opón Ifá. The odù runs thus:

Ògbè fohun fólóhun

Nkò fohun fólóhun

Adíá fún Èsù òn gbogbo irúnmolè tí won jo nsòré

Adíá fún Òrúnmìlà òun Èsù òdàrà tí won jo nsòré

Ògbè return what does not rightfully belong to you to the owner No, I will not return it

The same performed divination for Èsù and all other divinities who were friends

The same performed divination for Òrúnmìlà and Èsù who were friends

According to this odù, there was a point in time in history when Èsù and Òrúnmìlà were very close friends and indeed they shared secrets. It was in the process of their friendship that Èsù bequeathed the divination powers to Òrúnmìlà on the agreement to remain a shareholder in the business of divination. It was said that it was for this reason that the ojú Èsù located at the top central position on opón Ifá is placed there, to represent Èsù's interest as a principal shareholder in the divination process. It is only to this consciousness of power and communion that àṣẹ can be ensured. Èsù is also the deity that has the power of àṣẹ. It is, therefore, understandable why the ojú Èsù remains the only constant feature of opón Ifá. Having established typical iconography of opón Ifá, we shall proceed to the analysis of selected opón Ifá in Òyó, Sábe, and Ifè-Ana with the aim of identifying their iconographic conformity with and points of departure from archetypal models.

The opón Ifá in Figure 2 belongs to Taiwo Abimbola17 of Ile-Titun, Òyó. In an interview, Taiwo made it known that the opón was carved for him many years ago by a woodcarver from Iseyin (another Yorùbá town about 40 km north of Òyó), but he could not recall the carver's name. At the time of my fieldwork (2009–2017), this opón Ifá was the main one Taiwo used for divination. The carvings on the border are of animals and human beings. The oju Èsù is positioned at the ojú opón, directly opposite the sitting position of the diviner. Between the ojú opón and onà ògánrán (upper right interval), the board has depictions of a tortoise and a chameleon. On the opposite side, between the ojú opón and onà múnu (upper left interval), there are representations of a woman who appears to be dancing and another woman who is standing upright with her palms clasped in front of her. Next to the standing woman is a carved lizard. The lower left interval, between onà múnu and esè opón, depicts two human figures; the one at the top carries a pot on its head while the other, a male, appears to be masked and is probably dancing. On the lower right interval, between onà ògán-rán and esè opón, is the representation of a female figure with a baby on her back. Generally, representations of women with babies in Yòrùbá art symbolize ìkúnlè abiamo (travails of childbirth), one of the most emblematic forms in Yòrùbá art. It is believed by the Yòrùbá that it is at the point of birth that a child chooses its destiny. Yòrùbá people, therefore, consider both this moment and its depiction as notable and worth representing. The moment is so highly reverenced that its pictorial representation is thought to befit the deities. Still, on Figure 2, there is also a beaked bird with long legs. Birds can be symbolic of quite a number of things. Wild birds are used to depict witches (Filani 2012), while the domestic chicken represents meekness and the benevolence of Ifá. Witches are believed to be stakeholders, with deities such as Ifá and Èsù, in the maintenance of ontological balance in Yòrùbá cosmology.

2

Ọpn Ifá Ọpn Ifá of Taiwo Abimbola, Ilé Titun, y 36.4 cm

2

Ọpn Ifá Ọpn Ifá of Taiwo Abimbola, Ilé Titun, y 36.4 cm

Fabunmi (1972: 3), in the process of invoking spiritual forces, acknowledged the attendance of witches within the recognized supernatural forces in the Yòrùbá world. He refers to them as eleye (owners of birds). In the ensuring àyájó,18 Fabunmi gives ìbà (ìjúbà)19 to the eleye. The àyájó runs thus:

Ìbà alájá òun ògbóóró

Ìbà ajògèdè òun ìrèlè

Ìbà àwon eleye

Ìbà àwon ìyá mi arógba aso má balè

Olókìkí òru …

Honor to the one who owns a dog, who must wield a club

Honor to the one who eats a banana for its gentility

Honor to the owners of birds (witches)

Honor to “the mothers” (witches) who wear two hundred garments without overflowing

The popular owners and powers of the night …

According to Taiwo Abimbola, all the animals (lizard, chameleon, tortoise, and others) depicted on his tray are sacrificial animals of Ifá. He also pointed out that the images on this board are prototypes of the ones found on other boards used by diviners in Yorùbáland. It is observed that Taiwo Abimbola's divination tray possesses the characteristic features of a Yorùbá opón Ifá. It has the nine sections, as noted by scholars. Its center is slightly depressed for divination markings, its edges have zoomorphic representations, and the Èsù head is located at the top central position, opposite the diviner. The several humans and animals applied at the border tell independent stories but can be associated; this is what Drewal and Drewal (1987) discussed succinctly when they stated that “no narrative links these diverse depictions, rather they convey the myriad autonomous forces operating in the Yòrùbá cosmos and those affecting the diviner and his client” (Drewal and Drewal 1987: 246–47).

Figure 3 is an opón Ifá from Fiditi, an Òyó-Yòrùbá town about 19 km south of Òyó. The tray belongs to Bartholomew Obaniyi Fakorede of Ile-Alagbaa compound, Fiditi. According to the owner, he inherited this board from his father, who, in turn, inherited it from his father. Fakorede said he has jealously kept this board from thieves who steal artifacts and sell them to foreigners. In his estimation, the age of the board may be more than 100 years. At the time of this research, this was the board he used for divination. The decorative patterns on the edges of the board are not deeply cut but the center (àárín ọpn) is deeply sunk, making the edges appears higher than they really are. The Èsù head is represented at its usual top central position in high relief. The cheek of the Èsù head appears unusually robust and has pélé facial marks, and it extends, a little bit, to the center of the tray. The ọnà gánrán, ọnà múnu, and ẹs ọpn are decorated with checkered patterns, and the other upper intervals to the left and right are embellished with interlocking triangles. This divination tray, just like the one discussed previously, conforms perfectly with the archetypal iconographic standard of Yòrùbá divination trays.

3

Ọpn Ifá Ọpn Ifá of Batholomew Obaniyi Fakorede, Olukotun compound, Fiditi 30.2 cm

3

Ọpn Ifá Ọpn Ifá of Batholomew Obaniyi Fakorede, Olukotun compound, Fiditi 30.2 cm

We shall now examine an example of opón Ifá from Sábe, Benin Republic. The Fadupe of Ijalumo Area of Sábẹ are the principal diviners for Onisabe, the sovereign ruler of Sábẹ. One of the family's ọpn Ifá is shown in Figure 4. It is round in shape, with linear and geometric decorations around its edge, leaving the center (àárín ọpn) for divination. At the top central position is the ojú Èsù, which here occupies a large portion of the upper part of the board. The face has large eyeballs, a flat nose, and two raised horizontal stubs representing the mouth/lips. The face is confined within the border band; it does not extend to the middle of the board. The upper left and right intervals are embellished with criss-cross lines and triangular forms. The ẹs ọpn (Drewal, Pemberton, and Abiodun 1989; Pogoson and Akande 2011) is left plain. The ọnà múnu and ọnà gánrán both have criss-cross and triangular decorations. This board is painted with light blue, red, white, ocher, and black enamel paint. The àárín ọpn is painted red, while the Èsù face is light blue. This board is still in use.

4

Ọpn Ifá Ọpn Ifá of Fadupe family of Ijalumo, Sábẹ 30.4 cm

4

Ọpn Ifá Ọpn Ifá of Fadupe family of Ijalumo, Sábẹ 30.4 cm

The Èsù face, observed to be confined within the border of the board, is similar to those found in Òyó and Osogbo by Hans Witte (1994). Indeed, the decorative motifs on this board bear similarity with the one owned by the Ojebode family from Oroki, Isale-y, Nigeria, as discussed by Pogoson and Akande (2011). This iconographic similarity stands to confirm the continuous connection between y and Sábẹ Yorùbá people.

Figure 5 is the ọpn Ifá of Baba Awo Arifájogun of Jabata, Sábẹ. The width of the border-band of this ọpn Ifá, on which the decorations are carved, is narrow compared with the ones from Isale-y and Fiditi. The Èsù head is positioned at the usual ojú opón. However, the form of the head of Èsù on this board is rather sketchy and not elaborately carved. The head also extends slightly into the center of the board. The border, to the left and right and down to the bottom of the board, is embellished with geometric shapes and assorted lines. The board is painted, like its counterpart from Sábe; the paint on the board appears fresh. The colors applied are yellow, red, black, blue, green, white, and brown. The àárín ọpn is slightly depressed.

5

Ọpn Ifá Ọpn Ifá of Baba Awo Arifajogun, Jabata, Sábẹ 34.2 cm

5

Ọpn Ifá Ọpn Ifá of Baba Awo Arifajogun, Jabata, Sábẹ 34.2 cm

The two opón Ifá from Sábe are archetypal models of Yorùbá opón Ifá. However, it is observed that their artistry is not as elaborate as those found in y.

Figure 6 is the opón Ifá of Iba20 Oyekotan, the paramount chief and Ifá priest of Ifè-Ana Yòrùbá in Tchetti and Atakpame of Togo. Apparently, the board is not a carving like the ones in Òyó and Sábe but was made by a modern-day carpenter out of rectangular plywood, framed with a wood strip about an inch square. The frame at the edges has no decoration, but at the top central position are two grooves indicative of the Èsù head. There are no decorations to indicate the ese opón, ọnà múnu, and ọnà gánrán. According to Iba Oyekotan, the grooves are indicators for positioning the tray correctly. However, considering the established iconography of opón Ifá, one is convinced that the groove marks are representations of the Èsù head. This board is unconventional because it is obviously produced with modern technology, yet it represents, in simple forms, the characteristic features of a typical Yòrùbá opón Ifá. Its departure from the usual iconographic representations found on boards from the other two communities is worthy of note.

6

Ọpn Ifá Ọpn Ifá of Iba Oyekotan, Tcheti, If, Atakpame 38cm × 29.5 cm

6

Ọpn Ifá Ọpn Ifá of Iba Oyekotan, Tcheti, If, Atakpame 38cm × 29.5 cm

Another unique example of opón Ifá found in Ifè-Ana, belonging to Babaláwo Faturo of Gnagna, Atakpame, Ifè, is shown in Figure 7. This divination tray is rectangular and has a decorative border. However, instead of the usual ojú Èsù at the top central position of the divination tray, the carver depicts two snakes facing each other with their heads at the center of the top border. This same imagery is depicted at the esè opón. On the left and right vertical edges are rows of short horizontal relief lines running from the top to the lower side of the board. Images of cowrie shells are carved on each of the four angles.

7

Ọpn Ifá Ọpn Ifá of Fagbero, Gnagna, If, Atakpame 32cm × 45 cm

7

Ọpn Ifá Ọpn Ifá of Fagbero, Gnagna, If, Atakpame 32cm × 45 cm

As much as this board conforms to the use of zoomorphic and geometric decorations found on other Yorùbá divination boards, the absence of ojú Èsù at the top central position raises concern. Fagbero Faturo,21 the owner of the board, said that Èsù is (symbolically) represented by the ejò (snakes) on the upper and lower parts. The representation of ejò on carved Yòrùbá wood objects and other art forms is not unusual, but the claim by Faturo that ejò represents Èsù in Yòrùbá iconography may be controversial. Kunle Filani (2012: 57) discussed the representation of snakes in Yorùbá arts, including some contemporary usage of snakes as decorative motifs in paintings. He decrypted the representation of snakes in Yòrùbá arts to variously mean the continued existence of the Yòrùbá world and swift and strong powers of judgment and punishment. Can Faturo's interpretation of the ejò symbol as Èsù be attributed to his exposure to other religions and cultures? Odesola,22 a woodcarver in y, pointed out that ojú Èsù on ọpn Ifá not only symbolizes the mythical relationship between Ifá and Èsù, but serves as a directional sign to indicate the top and the bottom of the tray. Therefore, depicting ejò in the same position where ojú Èsù head should be may simply be for the purpose of getting the correct positioning of the tray.

When one considers odù òkànrà òsá as narrated by Iba Oyekotan, it becomes difficult to totally put aside the argument of the owner of the tray. According to the odù, friendship exists between Èsù and ejò, and this may account for ojú Èsù being replaced with the image of ejò. According to the odù:

Òkànràn sa!

Babaláwo igbá ló ki Ifá fún igbá

Kí igbá rúbo Èsù kó má baà fó

Igbá kotí ògbain s'áwo

Òkànràn sa!

Babaláwo ìkòkò ló ki Ifá fún ìkòkò

Ó ní kí ìkòkò rúbo Èsù kó má baà lu

Ìkòkò kotí ògbain s'áwo

Òkànràn sa!

Babaláwo ejò ló ki Ifá fún ejò

Wón ní kí ejò rúbo Èsù kó lè fi orí ségun òtá

Ejò rúbo Èsù

Ó gbó sí Ifá l'énu

Èsù fún ejò ní àṣẹ (oró) ti omo aráyé ò filè ríi lò bí ìtàkùn

Nígbà àwásè ìtàkùn l'ejò, tí kò bá sí orí, à bá mú ejò di igi

Orí ejò l'ejò fi nségun

Okanran sa!

It is the gourd's babaláwo that made divination for the gourd

That the gourd should sacrifice to Èsù for it not to break

The gourd did not heed to the advice of Ifá

Okanran sa!

It is the pot's babaláwo that made divination for the pot

That the pot should sacrifice to Èsù for it not to perforate

The pot did not heed to the advice of Ifá

Okanran sa!

It is the snake's babaláwo that made divination for the snake

That the snake should sacrifice to Èsù so that it can overcome its enemies with its head

The snake made a sacrifice to Èsù, it heeded the commands of the babaláwo

Èsù, in turn, gave the snake àṣẹ (powerful poison)

It is feared by men and not treated as an ordinary string

It is with its head that the snake overcomes its enemies.

According to this odù òkànrà òsá, the power of àṣẹ was given to ejò by Èsù. At the dawn of time, ejò was said to be harmless and used like creeping plants to tie wood; however, when it consulted Ifá and was asked to sacrifice to Èsù, ejò did and was given its power to sting and poison, and this made it dreaded by men. This poisonous power of ejò is considered the àṣẹ of ejò. Apart from the mythical relationship that may have existed between ejò and Èsù, it is also important to point out that Èsù can manifest in diverse forms. Indeed, the existence of Èsù transcends the logics and principles of existence. Èsù may choose to manifest in the form of ejò or any other animal or human form. However, the depiction of ejò as Èsù on the present opón Ifá may need further investigation, as it is not impossible to have more original iconological images from Ifè-Ana, being a Yòrùbá community that has had less contact and influenced from Òyó and Sábe.

THE ICONOGRAPHY OF ÌRÓKÉ IFÁ

According to Pogoson and Akande (2010), an ìróké is a long, mostly cylindrical and narrow carved piece of wood or tusk used by a babaláwo to tap the edges of the opón Ifá during divination sessions in order to retain the attention of supernatural powers that were invited to witness the session at the outset. According to them, the ìróké serves as an instrument as well as a symbol of office for a babaláwo. When babaláwos go out on important ceremonies, they take with them their ìróké as a symbol of identification and authority. However, the more common use of ìr can be observed during a divination session. At the outset of such a session, the babaláwo will invoke the presence of the spirit of Ifá, reputable babaláwos who have passed on, and other important forces that would assist in making the divination a success. In the course of divination, the babaláwo, from time to time, continues to tap the edge of his divination board with the ìrké. This action is repeated at varied intervals, but continually, throughout the session, in order to retain the presence and attention of the invited spiritual forces.

Pogoson and Akande established that an ìróké is a symbol of àṣẹ. Indeed, in an èjì ogbè, Ifá verse, Babalawo Famoriyo23 further emphasised the importance of ìróké beyond an ordinary paraphernalia. Ìróké is said to be venerated as if it were a deity. A part of the verse runs thus:

Ìjí tí mo jí, mo mú ìróké baba mi itorofíní itorofíní

… Mo ké ìbòsí, mo pe Akíntulà baba mi

… Omo erin tí fon kíkan kíkan

… A bì ìtò gìnnìgìnnì bí eji rò palè

… Òun ló dífá fún Ògèdè Òyàgàn

Ògèdè Òyàgàn tó nsúnkún aláìríbí ó ngbààwè àìrí pòn

Ó lóun kò bímo, ó wá nfi owó osùn nu ògiri gbígbe

Ó rí omo léyìn adìe ó bú pùrù sékún

Ó ní eye oko se é bímo ju eni lo

Ògèdè Òyàgàn to àwon babaláwo lo

… Erin nlá yo ganbu lójú opón

Ogbè lótùn ún Ogbè lósì

Wón ní kó rúbo sí ìróké àti ìrùkèrè

Ó rúbo ebo re fín, ebo re dà

Ògèdè Òyàgàn wá bímo yanturu

Ògèdè Òyàgàn wá nyin Ifá, Ifá wa nyin elédùmarè

As I woke up I took my father's ìróké

… I called my father Akintula

… The offspring of the elephant that trumpets loudly

… The one that passes urine as the dew falls

… The same performed divination for Ògèdè Òyàgàn (barren banana tree)

Ògèdè Òyàgàn was crying of not having children

Ògèdè Òyàgàn was crying of not having children and was rubbing her hand of calm wood oil on walls

rather than on children

She saw the hen with chickens, she burst into tears

She exclaimed that how can birds of the forest have children and she would not have

Ògèdè Òyàgàn then consulted babaláwo

… It was the big elephant that was revealed on the divination board

Ogbè on the right, Ogbè on the left (èjì ogbè)

She was asked to make a sacrifice to ìróké and ìrùkèrè

Ògèdè Òyàgàn performed the sacrifice and the sacrifice was accepted

Ògèdè Òyàgàn then gave birth to many children

Ògèdè Òyàgàn then praised Ifá

This èjì ogbè verse captures the ìróké as important paraphernalia of Ifá worship as well as an instrument that is symbolic of àṣẹ.

Some iconographic features of ìróké have been analyzed by Rowland Abiodun (1989), a scholar who has worked studiously on Ifá worship and artifacts. He observed that the ìróké usually consists of three sections; the topmost or pointed-end section, the middle section, and the bottom section (in order of importance). According to Abiodun, the features that essentially qualify an ìr are its three main sections. The first, which is at the top, is usually depicted with a curved cone. This is the section that is used for tapping the opón Ifá during divination sessions. The second part is the picture or middle section. Pogoson and Akande (2010) observed that the middle section is the place where some form of illustration, either specified or extemporized by the carver, is positioned. And, lastly, the third section is an ergonomic design that forms the handle. The babaláwo holds the ìróké with this.

In some other examples of ìróké, which we shall discuss later, the handle is carved hollow and metal bells are placed inside it so that when the babaláwo taps the edge of the opón with the conical top, there is a rattling sound. Sometimes, the babaláwo rattles the ìr to indicate àṣẹ (spiritual powers and forces that can make prayers come to pass; Abiodun 1994) to prayers during divination. When the metal bells jingle, the hollow and resonant quality of the wood amplifies the sound. Its engineering revolves around portability and strength. An ìróké must be easy to carry about and also strong enough to withstand the pressure of tapping the divination board without breaking.

We shall now analyze three examples of ìróké from Òyó, Sábe, and Ifè-Ana. The ìróké in Figure 8 is from Òyó. It belongs to Taiwo Abimbola of Ilé-Titun, Òyó. In its iconography, the three sections that characterize a typical ìróké are obvious. The top section is the conical cap. The cap is the coiffure of the elongated heads of the figures from the middle section. The carved hair-style on the heads is akin to the traditional Yorùbá ṣùkù. Next to this is the middle section, where two human heads (likely females) backing each other are depicted. The features of the heads are sharp and angular, which makes them typical of the Yòrùbá woodcarving style. The third section, the handle of the ìróké, is embellished with criss-cross lines forming an interlocking pattern. The pattern is to serve as a grip for the holder. This handle is hollow and on the inside are attached metal bells. The ìróké is painstakingly crafted and conforms to archetypal models of Yòrùbá ìróké Ifá.

8

Ìr Ifá Ìr Ifá of Taiwo Abimbola, Ilé-Titun, yó 24.4 cm

8

Ìr Ifá Ìr Ifá of Taiwo Abimbola, Ilé-Titun, yó 24.4 cm

Another ìróké Ifá (Fig. 9) from Òyó depicts a male horserider in its middle section. The horserider has a decorative hair style which terminates in the conical part at the top. Equestrian figures are common and emblematic forms in Yòrùbá art, especially in wood-carving (Cole 1989: 116–35). Thompson (1974) observed that the image of the mounted figure is widely found in West Africa as an expression of conquest. Among the Yòrùbá, carved wooden figures of horsemen honoring warriors are kept in the homes of veterans of military exploits. Morton-Williams (2005) pointed out that the motif of the mounted warrior, commonly in wood but occasionally in ivory, is usually placed in several settings by the Yorùbá. It can sometimes be found in temples or shrines of gods (òrìṣà) or in the palaces of kings. He noted that this usage can also be found in the superstructure of some epa masks. The central point at which the ìróké Ifá in this plate is depicted is the usual place for illustrations of exclusive sorts by woodcarvers. However, unlike the ìróké Ifá discussed in Figure 8, this one has no jingling bells attached to its “innards” and is sketchily carved without much detail. It is not rich in surface embellishments, which are found on many Yorùbá carved wood items. However, the quintessential iconographic features of Yòrùbá ìróké Ifá are there.

9

Ìr Ifá Ìr Ifá of Famoriyo, Ile-Arowopale, Òyó 21.1 cm

9

Ìr Ifá Ìr Ifá of Famoriyo, Ile-Arowopale, Òyó 21.1 cm

Figure 10 is another ìróké, and this belongs to the Fadupe family of Sábe, Benin Republic. In the central position is a kneeling figure holding an unidentified object to its chest. This figure is very likely a female because of its elaborate coiffure. However, it lacks protruding breasts, a major characteristic of female figures in Yòrùbá art. A small protuberance of wood terminates in a cone-like structure on the head of the figure; this is the conical top. At the base, there is a slightly long cylindrical projection that serves as the handle. This object, just like its opón Ifá counterpart from Sábe, is coated with colored enamel paint.

10

Ìr Ifá Ìr Ifá of Fadupe family of Ijalumo, Sábẹ 8.7 cm

10

Ìr Ifá Ìr Ifá of Fadupe family of Ijalumo, Sábẹ 8.7 cm

The ìróké in Figure 11 is from the Ifè-Ana Yòrùbá community at Atakpame, Togo. It is radically different from the ones from Òyó and Sábe discussed previously. There are two main sections in this ìróké: the top section and the handle. The top is cylindrical, as opposed to the usual conical shape found in Òyó and Sábe. A closer look at the ìróké shows that it is not carved, but produced by a carpenter or a skilful Ifá devotee.

11

Ìr Ifá Ìróké Ifá of Iba Oyekotan, Tchetti, If, Atakpame 32 cm

11

Ìr Ifá Ìróké Ifá of Iba Oyekotan, Tchetti, If, Atakpame 32 cm

DISCUSSIONS AND CONCLUSION

We see that extant traditional Yòrùbá religious and liturgical artifacts in wood in Òyó and Sábe share many more related iconographic features with each other than with those from Ifè-Ana. The opón Ifá and ìróké Ifá obtained from Òyó and Sábe have very similar characteristic features and indeed appear iconic in the two communities. In contrast, the liturgical artifacts in Ifè-Ana are almost radically different in iconography from those found in Òyó and Sábe. The disparities between the traditional Yòrùbá religious artifacts in wood in Ifè-Ana are not be totally blamed on its long distance from Òyó and Sábe; from the information gathered from worshippers in Ifè-Ana, distance and the absence of a resident carver in Ifè-Ana appear to be the factors responsible for the iconographic disparity in the worship artifacts there. In Atakpame, the demand for traditional Yòrùbá religion worship artifacts is insufficient to sustain the financial needs and livelihood of professional woodcarvers, leading to the dearth of traditional Yòrùbá wood-carving and carvers in that community. This is evident from Faturo Fagbero's assertion that traditional YòrùbáFigure 6). Indeed, Fagbero pointed out that some of the artifacts are sourced from surrounding Yòrùbá communities such as Datcha, Tchetti, and Kabole. A key informant, Gee,24 particularly declared that there are no traditional woodcarvers in Ifè-Ana. Also, there is low demand from the community, as those who converted to other religions, such as Christianity and Islam, have done away with the paraphernalia of their previous religion. In the course of this fieldwork, too, I did not find any traditional-religion woodcarver in the community. On the question of how they sourced their worship items, Ariba Olubuku stated that they commission part-time carvers and jokingly added that they sometimes sourced from Gee.

Other reasons for disparities in the iconography of Ifè-Ana from that of Òyó and Sábe may be indicative of archaicness; perhaps this community retained the age-long iconographic tradition of the Yòrùbá people without the changes that developed elsewhere. Some others may be the result of influences from both autochthonous cultures25 of Atakpame and foreign religions such as Islam and Christianity26 (this cannot be overruled). In the interview27 with Iba Oyekotan, Ariba Olubuku, and Ifè-babaláwo Faturo Fabero, while attending to the question of the frequency of interaction between Ifè-Ana people and the outside world, especially the Yòrùbá in Òyó and Sábe, Iba Oyekotan had this to say:

We (Ifè people) are Ana,28 and we have strong interactions with our kinsmen in Kaboli, Datcha, and Tcheti; indeed, we are one people. Although, we also have interactions with other cultural groups but we are much closer with the Ana communities … Many of the paraphernalia you see are age-long iconographies. We have, as much as possible, preserved the culture of our fathers, as we inherited from our forefathers.

He was responding to a question on the influences of other cultures on their iconography. The veracity of this claim is doubtful as it is a little difficult to ascertain. Obviously, some of the paraphernalia found in Ifè-Ana are recent productions. Iba Oyekotan, however, cited the example of Kàká (Fig. 12) as age-long Ifá paraphernalia. Kàká is an object of Ifá worship in Ifè-Ana; it is made with 256 pieces of calabash cut into rectangular shapes, measuring about 7 cm or more on each side. They are perforated at the center and strung together in a single bunch. On the smooth side of each is indicated particular ikpori of Ifon (odù of Ifá). This paraphernalia indeed compells attention because nothing like it was found in Òyó or Sábe.

12

Kàká: a distinctive object of Ifá worship in Ifà-Ana. It is produced with 256 pieces of broken calabash, cut into rectangular shapes. Each measures up to about 7 cm. They are perforated at the center and then strung together through the perforations. Each piece corresponds with an ikpori (a verse of odù Ifá)

12

Kàká: a distinctive object of Ifá worship in Ifà-Ana. It is produced with 256 pieces of broken calabash, cut into rectangular shapes. Each measures up to about 7 cm. They are perforated at the center and then strung together through the perforations. Each piece corresponds with an ikpori (a verse of odù Ifá)

The fact that symbols of all the ikpori of Ifon marked on Kàká and such paraphernalia are not found elsewhere raises in the researcher a suspicion that this paraphernalia may be an innovation that sprang out of an attempt to keep a record of the original patterns of the ikpori. Another observation that may be worthy of mention is from a nonspecialist position.

I, who am a Yorùbá man and conversant with several dialects of the Yòrùbá language, observed that the intonation of the Ifè-Ana Yòrùbá dialect sounds more like the northern Ekiti29 dialect than that of Ile-Ifè (Nigeria), from where the people claim to have originated. This is debatable and can be subjected to examination by language experts.

Many opón Ifá and ìróké Ifá found in Sábe, such as the ones covered in this study (Figs. 45), are painted, and their forms are not as elaborate and well-defined (dídán) as those of Òyó. The poor crafting of this paraphernalia may be not unconnected with the fact that many Yorùbá traditional woodcarvers of religious artifacts in the community lack exhaustive training in woodcarving art. Also, they carve only on (urgent) demand. Thus, their skill is not put to use regularly. Sumptuously carved archetypical pieces exist in Sábe, but where they do, they are said to have been brought from Òyó—an indication that there is a continuous transfer of people and culture between Òyó and Sábe Yòrùbá communities. This continuous communication between these two historically connected Yorùbá communities implies that economic reasons, as indicated by Morton Williams (1966), are behind Òyó's annexation and domination of Sábe and some other parts of Benin Republic in the early eighteenth century; this phenomenon is ongoing.

Notes

1

The poems encapsulate the wisdom of the Yorùbá. They narrate the various challenging experiences of Yorùbá people in the past and how they overcame such challenges.

3

The estimated 23.8% is calculated based on the result of the 2006 Nigerian population and housing census, the last actual population census.

4

Old Òyó Empire is the Yorùbá city-state located towards the northern parts of Yorùbáland. Old Òyó is believed to be the political center of all Yorùbá people. It was sacked by Fulani warriors in the early part of the nineteenth century.

5

Oríkì can be defined as the citation of the origin of a person, place, or phenomenon. Oríkì includes all verbal, visual, and performative arts of the Yoruba that probe the essence and existence of things and are capable of providing fresh insight about the origin of the person, item, place, or thing in question. It includes incantation, Ifa divination verses, myths, personal cognomen, etc.

6

Samuel Johnson (1921: 4), one of the earliest writers of Yorùbá history, wrote that Ifá, sometimes called Òrúnmìlà, came from Mecca and arrived at Ilé-Ifè long before the entire Yòrùbá people came from Mecca. J.D. Clarke (1939) traced the source of Ifá divination powers and the origin of the phallic god, Elégbáa (Èsù). In another myth, Clarke pointed out that it was the critical involvement of Òrìsà-Nlá (sometimes called Obatala) and Òrúnmìlà (Ifá) in the creation of the world with OlódùmarèWande Abimbola (1977), narrating another story of the origin of Ifá, wrote that Ifá was one of the 401 divinities (òrìsà) sent by God (Olódùmarè) to earth (ayé) at the beginning of creation.

7

Ariba comes from a combination of two Yorùbá words, arí and iba (meaning “the one that sees the sovereign”), whereas iba itself means oba. The sovereign ruler is referred to as Iba. In ancient times, it was only the Ariba that could see the Iba in person. Others had to listen to him through a messenger and the sovereign ruler usually wore a veil in public.

8

Ifè-Ana-Yorùbá people refer to Ifá as Ifon. The two words are used interchangeably.

9

Odù of Ifá is referred to as Ikpori in Ifè-Ana. Odù is the poem that is associated with the 256 possible permutations resulting from Ifá divination.

10

Ewà can simply be defined as beauty or the aesthetic qualities of an artifact. However, a deeper interrogation of the word has revealed its strong tie with ìwà (character or being). Ewà has therefore been linked with the very essence (plastic and semiotic) of an artifact.

11

Alaafin Lamidi Adeyemi III (2018). Focused group discussion with the Alaafin, the Alapini, Alhaji Sheu Ademola, Safara Ajakaiye, Ibrahim Salawu, Baba Awo Morakinyo, Oba Edu, and the Ona-Efa, Tajudeen Barika, on research on egúngún Jeńjù and Mowuru of Òyó.

12

Aliletepowo was probably pronounced with Ijebu Yorùbá dialect and spelled this way because the babalawo that was interviewed by Drewal, Pemberton, and Abiodun (1989) was an Ijebu babalawo. The word should be ajílétépowó.

13

Afurukeresayo is Ijebu Yorùbá dialect. In Òyó Yorùbá it is afìrùkèrèsayò, which is the correct spelling and pronunciation/dialect.

14

Author's interview with Chief Fatokun Morakinyo (around 76 years old). Chief Morakinyo is the Àre Ìsèse (Chief) and Oba Edu, Ilé Arowopale, Òyó (February 12, 2015).

15

Ètò refers to the established order or organized pattern of arrangement. Ètò is indicative of equilibrium, agreement, and balance of individual forms and elements in a design pattern.

16

Interview with Chief Fatokun Morakinyo (b. 1943), the Oba Edu of Òyó; an important Ifá personage at Isale Òyó.

17

Author's interview with Taiwo Abimbola. Abimbola is an Ifá diviner and a leading Ifá priest in Òyó. He is the son of Professor Wande Abimbola, a leading writer and authority on Yorùbá Ifá divination. Taiwo's house is located on Jare Emily Street, directly beside Dacamca Hotel, Ilé-Titun, Òyó (December 20, 2014).

18

Àyájó, according to Opefeyitimi (2016), is myth incantation. Opefeyitimi, quoting Afolabi Olabimtan, states that “Àyájó, sacred myth, is a word generally used to refer to the past in relation to the present … àyájó helps the reciter to achieve the purpose of incantation.” Akiwowo (1986) defines àyájó as a kind of poem known as incantation and recited as part of ceremonial rites or at the occasion of healing the sick.

19

Ìbà (ìjùbà is the actual procedure of giving ìbà) is poetry, and sometimes incantation, in respect, honor, acknowledgement, and praise of persons and powers. The ìbà cited honors witches and acknowledges their position as stakeholders in the maintenance of ontological balance in the Yorùbá cosmos.

20

According to Iba Oyekotan, the first Iba of Ifè-Ana-Yorùbá people was Iba Moi'se Ifè-Ana.

21

Fagbero Faturo is an Ifè-Ana-Babalawo in the Gnagna area of Atakpame.

22

Author's interview with Odesola Odekunle. Odesola is the son of Odekunle from the popular Ekiti-trained wood-carving family at Eleekara, Òyó (5 July 2013).

23

Personal communication with Babalawo Famoriyo of Ile-Odo-Oje, Isale Oyo, September 2013.

24

Gee is a dealer in modern and traditional art objects in Atakpame.

25

According to Iba Oyekotan, the autochthon of Atakpame was Akposo. Later on, the Hudu, Ifè-Ana, and Fon-Mahi moved from Benin, Tcheti-Ekpo, and Savalou, respectively (they are all in Dahomey, now the Benin Republic).

26

The snakes depicted in Figure 7 might be a result of the influence of the Biblical story of Adam and Eve where the snake represents Satan. In the course of translating the English Bible to Yòrùbá, Satan has been interpreted as Èsù. This erroneous conception must have spread to other Yòrùbá communities outside Nigeria.

27

This was revealed in the Focused Group Discussion

28

Ana, according to Iba Oyekotan, encompasses all the Yorùbá in Atakpame, Datcha, Tchetti, and Kaboli.

29

The language sounds more like the Akoko-Ekiti Yorùbá dialect.

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