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.”