Yoruba Babalawo Beaded Apron
The Babalawo apron is an example of the type of beadwork garments reserved for the use of the elite of Yoruba society, such as diviners and kings. It may have been worn during religious festivals by a member of an elite group of priests of Ifa, the orisha of diviniation . These practitioners helped people with their problems by obtaining the advice of the gods (orishas) through the process of divination, and prescribing the appropriate sacrifices to be made in order to resolve the problem.

The designs and colors on the apron form a multi-layered text of encoded information that alludes to the sacred office entrusted to the Babalawo and to his power and quasi royal status in society. The apron's design also conveys the importance of making sacrifice to obtain the assistance of the deities. This information is shown symbolically in the form of four frogs and an elephant, multi-referential creatures mentioned in the sacred Ifa verses. Additionally, the design includes protective symbols, such as the abstract triangular scales of the pangolin, which protect the divination process from the interference of evil.

Click here for a detail
Babalawo Apron Beadwork on cloth Yoruba, Western Nigeria
Please use arrow buttons to move to the next/previous image in the Exhibition
Return to African Art & Culture Page Click Here