Gallery News & Events
Jan Baum Gallery, proudly presents a few treasures of Yoruba art. We find the art to be the most brilliant, imaginative, creative and powerful of Nigeria’s most prolific and enduring arts people. From the hand of the highly esteemed Robert Farris Thompson: “The sculpture of the Yoruba suggests important public people, both earthly and celestial, sacred and profane, monarchial and common. The clarity and tranquility of the representation makes the reader realize, by contrast, to what extent human beings the world over err on the side of anger, impatience and jealously. The artists of the Yoruba have dared to suggest, in a world of discord and displeasure, the presence of ideal, divine justice. The world, consequently, is forever richer because of their works.” – Robert Thompson, 1971 The objects: 1. Large Epa mask – An Epa mask is danced in agricultural rites by the village’s strongest and most able young man. If he succeeds in leaping onto a 3-foot mound with the mask intact, great health and prosperity will ensue for the village. However, if the challenge is not met, misfortune and adversity will be visited on the village. 2. A divination cup including Mother & Child. This is from the Yoruba of Dahomey (now Benin) a contiguous neighbor where the Yoruba spill over the border. The cup holds palm nuts used in IFA divination. IFA represents the principle of certainty and order in the universe. The diviner throws the nuts to read the oracle, wherein the patterns of the future can be foretold. 3. A Gelede mask is danced to honor the “elder mothers” and to shield the village from witchcraft. The performances are often amusing but also contain devastating commentaries on human foibles. 4. Houseposts are installed on the chief’s veranda and are part of his prestigious regalia. A pair of posts in the exhibition will feature a Horse & Rider and a Mother & Child, two of the most frequently used icons in the Yoruba lexicon. 5. Maternity – Mother & Child – a large, tough figure acknowledges the power and authority of women, the mystery of birth. 6. Ibejis – “Sons of Thunder” – the cult of twins. The arrival of twins is cause for great celebration or dire concern as the twins can bring the parents good fortune or great trouble. The twinning rate in Nigeria is the highest in the world; likewise the mortality. When a twin dies an Ibeji, a memorial figure, is carved to keep the soul of the departed honored and close by. 7. Egungun is a dance/ performance for the ancestors who founded the lineage and who, as living dead, continue to affect the life of the living. Egungun means “masquerade”. Some masquerades are thought to bear the spirit of the ancestor; others are clearly designed to entertain through clowning, costume transformation and spectacular dancing. The masquerades for the ancestors may be called forth at times of crisis in the life of a family member, i.e. the death of an elder, or in the life of a town, when disease or witchcraft lays waste the health and energy of the people.