Diviner's Bowl (opon igedeu)

Artist Arowogun (Areogun) of Osi-Ilorin (Nigerian (Yoruba peoples), about 1880–1956)

Object Place: Nigeria


Height: 31.11 cm (12 1/4 in.) Diameter: 29.21 cm (11 1/2 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Wood, pigment traces

On View

Richard B. Carter Gallery (Gallery 171)


Africa and Oceania


Religious and cult objects

Arowogun of Osi-Ilorin, a prolific sculptor, is best known for his architectural sculptures for the palaces of Yoruba kings in what is now southern Nigeria. This bowl is a commission for a babalawo, (lit. father of secrets), a specialist in the practice of Ifa divination. The bowl, used for the storage of materials used in consultation with clients, combines historical motifs and modern visual metaphors. In Ifa divination, the messenger god Esu travels between this world and the divine realm to convey advice to prayerful supplicants. On the lid of this bowl, Esu is portrayed riding a bicycle and enjoying a pipe. A woman ensures that the pipe-bowl is well-filled, while a man in the uniform of the colonial service enjoys a ride on the rear fender. On the lower part of the bowl, the nude woman supporting the hinge kneels in a traditional posture of deference. The warriors and captives around the sides of the bowl evoke the great upheaval of the 19th century, when Yoruba kingdoms vied with each other for regional dominance.


August, 1986, collected in Nigeria [see note 1] and acquired by Charles Davis, Davis Gallery, New Orleans; autumn 1986, sold by Davis Gallery to William and Bertha Teel, Marblehead, MA; 1991, year-end gift of William and Bertha Teel to the MFA. (Accession Date: January 22, 1992)

[1] According to Charles Davis this comes from the village of Omu-Aran, Nigeria.

Credit Line

Gift of William E. and Bertha L. Teel