The Concept Of Prophesy In The Art And The Oracle By Alisa Lagamma

African art is unique in that it places the function of an artwork above the aesthetics and form. African art whose purpose is to perform divination is an excellent example. Alisa laGamma, in her book “The Art and the Oracle” describes divination as the use of supernatural methods to find out hidden information or foretell the future. African artworks of divination are created to create a link between the living world and ancestral spiritual realms. This bridge does show the virtues of a diviner and can increase the confidence of a client. Divination depends heavily on the knowledge of the diviner. They’re trained to do this from a very young age. Interpretation is a way to gain wisdom by combining cultural traditions with worldly observation skills.

Oral tradition and stories are the basis of many different divination practices. Divination became a trend because people began to turn to the divine for answers to their problems. But this is not all that divination was used for. As the concern for human suffering becomes more universal, divination begins to gain popularity. The primary focus is on the human condition, including bodily ailments, dying, social conflicts, destructive forces in nature, and uncertainty within the community. Divination is Sub-Saharan Africa. John Pemberton. Divination is also practiced to find the meaning of life and to predict personal destiny. E.M. Zuesse described three different types of divination. These are intuitive divination and possession divination. The diviner is able to see or know the future through intuition. Possession divination involves a spiritual entity communicating with the diviner or artwork. Wisdom divination involves decoding random patterns in the natural world. I will focus on the art of Divination and the Oracle in Yoruba and Nigeria, and explain how different artworks and divination processes are used by each culture. Oyo, which emerged after Ife but retained many of the Yoruba characteristics such as its urban culture and system of political leaders. Ifa divination is used to uphold these standards. Ifa Priests, also known as Babalawo (or “father of secrets”), interpret the odu Ifa which is “a vast collection of oral literature containing Yoruba wisdom” (LaGamma). 17). Ifa Divination Trays (Opon Ifas) are a great example of political devotion towards Ifa. This divination tray was a wooden statue that belonged to a Yoruba king. This tray was once in the possession of a Yoruba king, and may have served to protect and strengthen the state’s power. The Yoruba Bibeli is an online text by University of African Art that states the Ifa Oracle is infallible, and speaks only truth. The Yorubas are more confident in their divination practices. In casting divination, the oracle is not used, but instead the priest’s wisdom and interpretation of the signs.

Ifa is a way of looking at the universe through the two halves that make up a calabash. Carved Calabash represents these two halves. A gourd has been carved and cut in two to represent the realms of living (aye), and spiritual (orun). This work “expresses Yoruba as a union with structurally equal, independent elements” that is found in many other artifacts. (LaGamma). The actual casting of the work relies on sixteen pine nuts, which are the 16 signs or odu. This connects the diviners Orunmila who is the “High God”, and holds the secrets for odu.

The diviner invokes Orunmila with a tapping stick and then an ancient Babalawo witnesses the process. LaGamma presents the Ifa Divination Tapper(Iroke Ifa), an ivory stick carved by the diviner to be tapped on the divination plate in order for Orunmila to appear, at her exhibit The Art and the Oracle (pg. 38-39). Then, the diviner will cup his hands around the 16 pinenuts and hold ikin while grabbing the group of 16 with his left hand. The diviner will draw lines into the dust depending on the number of pine nuts that remain in their left hand. The configuration of the divination dust represents one of the 256 stories of odu after eight successful castings. After the casting is complete, the diviner can answer client concerns based upon the corresponding Odu story.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (D.R.C.) is the powerful Kingdom of the Kongo. The Kongo is a powerful kingdom. The Kongo Cosmogram or cycle of the universe is the basis for this kingdom. This diamond-shaped graph, which represents the recycling of souls from birth to death and rebirth, appears on various artifacts in the D.R.C. history. It can be seen on maternity figures or nkisi Nkondi. The book “Royal Arts of Africa”: The Majesty of Form states that Kongo Kingdoms were very interested in the realm of spirits, especially the Kongo Cosmogram. (pg. This is due to the Kuba and Luba cultures, which put a lot of emphasis on the spiritual realm when they practice divination.

We can see this in the Luba culture, which is a part of the D.R.C. Mijibu, a spirit channel, helped Kalala Flunga, son to a prince and tyrant, overthrow his uncle after the death his father. This made him king. It is the same as the divination to choose the Luba king after his death. Mijibu is also the source of power for Mbudye “men with memory” and Bilumbu diviners. Bilumbu are able to gain authority through their ability (kukwata), which is a main practice in Luba divination, as well as their possession of an Adze. Female Heads: Ceremonial Adze (Kibiki, Kasolwa). LaGamma. 59-60 shows a carved adze and forge metal. LaGamma’s “Art and the Oracle”, page 70, tells the story of Mijibu using the Royal Spear: Feminine Figure (Mulumba). This wooden and metal royal spear depicts a woman figurine, as the vessel that connects two worlds. This idea reflects the Luba belief of women as the carriers of spiritual energy between the realms. Mijibu tells Kalala to save him from being pushed into a pit with spears by his uncles. Kalala saves himself, drives his own spear and becomes the rightful Luba leader.

When a diviner’s spirit is open to divination, the chants and percussive music of Luba are used. The diviner, once possessed by the spirit, takes on that spirit’s identity, dressing in furs, beads and headbands with patterns representing the power of his spirit. The wife of the male diviner sits to the right, and a sculpture depicting a seated woman or woman on her knees holding a cup is placed to the left. LaGamma’s catalog shows Female Bowl Carrier (Mboko), a visual representation of divination and knowledge in Luba culture. This incised ceramic sculpture was used in spirit divination to hold the chalk and beads that the diviner would use once possessed. This is a reminder that women are conduits for the spirit world and the human realm. After the initial possessing is completed, the customer asks questions of the diviner. These questions are answered by him after consulting with spirit who possesses the Mboko and shaking it. The diviner then uses the information gathered from the Mboko shaken to interpret the situation and solve the problem of the client. Divination Kit for Gourds & Elements by LaGamma. This vessel is used to perform spirit divination at Songye in the DRC. This is different in some ways from Luba Divination. However, it can be used to better understand the process of divination by examining the contents of the gourd.

Yombe culture is also a subculture that derives its divination tools and practices from Kongo Cosmogram. Nkisi Nkondi are the Kongo Cosmogram figures because they represent a direct link between the spiritual world and the physical realm. Minkisi/nkisi refers to medicine. It is the intention of these figures to heal physical and societal crises through restoring spiritual equilibrium. The nkisi figure is a variety of different figures. However, the nkisi-nkondi should be given more attention. Minkondi/nkondi is a hunter which is also correlated to the purpose of this figure, to hunt down those who have upset or upset the balance in spirituality. We use the nkisi/nkondi to uncover witches (or other wrongdoers), thieves, adulterers or other wrongdoers.

Nkisi Nkondi is perceived as a kind of spirit’s home, and are therefore considered extremely fragile and dangerous. They are only made by banganga/nganga ritual experts, who have a vast amount of knowledge about spirits, and can protect themselves from their anger. On behalf of their victims, the nganga reveal those who are wrong. In the consultations, diviners are called upon to play their part. The consultation begins with the individual presenting his or her crisis. The diviner has placed materials inside the figure’s stomach, back and head. These “medicines”, which are believed to evoke spirits, will help the person address their crisis. LaGamma describes a specific Nkisi Nkondi in her book, “The Art and the Oracle”, on page 32. This Nkisi Nkondi was carved out of Canarium scheinfurthii (a sacred tree) and added with elements like clay, nails, and shells for medicinal purposes. Nkisi Nkondi is the Yombe culture’s ’empowered figures’, made from wood, metal and glass. The image was taken from Blier’s “Royal Arts of Africa”, page 223. The nkisi figure that is protruding metal in some way means that it has been activated or empowered. The diviner inserts a nail into the figure and the person suspected must remove it. If the suspected person cannot remove metal from the figure, they are convicted and accused of wrongdoing.

Divination is an intercultural practice in which only the elements and means of oral tradition vary. In his studies, E.M. Zuesse outlined three types of art and objects that were created to be used in divination. These reflect a link between the spiritual world and the visible one. Okediji states in his book “Yoruba Cultural Studies,” the divination practice isn’t a fully-established part of Yoruba culture because it is a crosscultural concept. Divination is constantly being adopted and changed by cultures to suit new ideas that come from other cultures. It is also possible to elaborate on this, since divination remains a part African tradition. Tonya Taylor’s article, “Because i wsn in pain i just wan to be treated”, by Tonya shows that healers are still using divination to heal their members.

Different cultures have different divination practices, but all of them are rooted in the same fundamental beliefs. These artworks are always a bridge between the visible world and the intangible, and can be used for healing, defining fate, or solving problems. There are more divination techniques and beliefs in African cultures than the few that were discussed and exploited. Spider divination, friction/rubbing and other forms of divination are examples. You can’t understand Africans and their art without understanding divination.


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    Sean Evans is a 29-year-old school teacher and blogger who resides in Utah. Sean is an advocate for education and believes that every child has the right to a quality education. In addition to teaching, Sean also enjoys writing and has a blog where he discusses various topics related to education. Sean is an active member of the community and is always looking for ways to help others.