Art Analysis: Yoruba Divination Bowl

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The piece I chose to write about was known as a Yoruba Divination Bowl. It is a piece that was carved from a single piece of wood. Northwestern Nigerians known as the Yoruba people made this wooden bowl in the 20th century. I visited this piece of art on April 18, 2015 at the De Young Museum in San Francisco. Although the piece did not have specific dimensions, the bowl was roughly 12 inches tall and has a diameter of about 11 inches. This piece is a very detailed bowl that consists of a man and a woman balancing a bowl on top of their head. The man has markings on his face with big eyes and a strong bone structure followed by closed lips and he appears to be holding a drum or shaker of some kind. The woman is holding an open bowl of what…show more content…
It is no mistake that they are holding objects under such a sacred divination bowl that is used in everyday Yoruba life. My interpretation of the sculpture is the man is offering music or dance to the gods. In Yoruba and in other African communities, music and dance is a sacred practice, it is used to communicate with their gods and ancestors. It is used for celebration, death and rebirth and by offering this to their ancestors it is showing a sign of respect. The woman is holding a bowl as a way to represent food or a nurturing essence. What I noticed is that her arms are much longer than the man. I interpreted this in two ways. The first was the artist intentionally made her arms longer to get our attention to focus on the bowl. Secondly, I believe this bowl represents the nurturing role of women in Yoruba culture. It represents in my opinion the abilities of fertility and raising children and providing such children with food, love, and wisdom. It almost feels as if she is offering her abilities to their ancestors and in return may they bless her. What puts these together is both figures are kneeling as way to show respect to the spirits and give his and her

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