Seeking Guidance from the Akapo

July 29th, 2020 | Exploring Objects, Fears, and the Future

From the exhibit Exploring Objects, Fears, and the Future

Divination bag, Yorùbá people, West Africa.

Circa 1935. 5-10841.

This bag was used by diviners in the Ifá spiritual tradition, carrying objects such as shells, animal bones, or a chain made of seeds. When a person comes to the diviner for help making decisions, the diviner casts some of the objects onto the ground or a wooden tray and interprets the patterns they form in landing. The maker of this bag decorated it with molten glass pearls on white cotton. It depicts a diviner on horseback above a divining tray, which shows the face of the benevolent god Eshu. The bag is so essential to the diviner’s role that this person is called the akapo, or “bag carrier.”

Photo: David Garnick