Siyahların Medeniyeti: Yoruba Krallığı
 

Yoruba Kingdom

Yoruba Kingdom Map

Siyahların Medeniyeti: Yoruba Krallığı

Kategori: Gizemli Medeniyetler, Afrika Medeniyetleri, Nijerya Tarihi

Hazırlayan: Akhenaton

14. yüzyılda Büyük Sahra'yı geçip Afrika içlerine giren ünlü gezgin İbn-i Batuta, oralarda İslam dinini kabul etmiş, büyük şehirler kurmuş, sanat eserleri meydana getirmiş, maden çıkaran ve işleyen topluluklar olduğunu yazmıştır. Çoğu, bağımsızlığına 1960'larda kavuşan Afrika'nın zenci milletleri, tarih boyunca medeniyet kurmamış, güzel sanatlarda eser vermemiş toplumlar değildirler. Bunların bazıları, tarihin bir bölümünde belki pek ilkel, hatta yamyam hayatı yaşamışlardır. Ama yüzlerce yıl önce, onların da şaheserler meydana getirdiklerini artık biliyoruz. İşte bunlardan biri de Yoruba Krallığı'dır.[1]


Yoruba Krallığı

Yorubalar, Sudan'da Kur dil öbeğinden (Nijer-Kordofan) etnik topluluk. Nijerya ve Benin'de yaşayan yaklaşık 15 milyon nüfustan oluşur.[2] Nijerya'nın güneyinde ve özellikle Benin ülkesinde yaşayan Yoruba'lar, daha buralara hiçbir Avrupalının ayak basmadığı bir dönemde, yaklaşık 13. yüzyılda büyük bir krallık kurmuşlardı. Bu krallığın nüfusları 100.000'i aşan şehirleri vardı. Meşhur Kral Benin, topraklarının sınırını Togo'ya kadar genişletmiş ve krallığı bir imparatorluk haline getirmişti.[1]

Nijerya, çok eskiçağlardan beri Afrika'daki göç yolları üzerindedir. 2.000 yılı aşkın bir süre önce Bantular, bugünkü Nijerya-Kamerun sınırındaki bölgeden önce doğuya, sonra da güneye doğru büyük bir göç hareketi gerçekleştirmiştir. Günümüzde Nijerya'da yaşayan İbolar, İbibiolar ve İjolar Bantular'ın torunlarıdır. M.Ö. 500 ile M.S. 200 arasında Jos Yaylası'nda gelişen Nok uygarlığı seramik sanatının olağanüstü güzel örneklerini vermiştir. Daha sonra bölgede İfe ve Benin uygarlıkları gelişti. 7. ve 11. yüzyıllar arasında yeni bir göç dalgasıyla Yorubalar bugünkü Batı Nijerya'ya geldiler. Aynı dönemde, Hami ırkından olan Hausalar, kuzeye yerleşerek Kano gibi, surlarla çevrili kentleri olan yedi devletin oluşturduğu bir konfederasyon kurdular. Daha sonra gelen Fulaniler, kuzeyi istila ettikten sonra güneye yayıldılar. Ormanlık bölgelerde egemen olan Yorubalar'ın en ünlü krallıkları batıda Oyo, doğuda da Benin'di. Yorubalar güçlerinin doruğuna 16. yüzyılda ulaştılar.[3] Koloni öncesi döneminde Yorubalar tarımla uğraşan şehirlilerden oluşuyordu. Bu kentleşme eğilimi sanayileşmeyle birlikte süreklilik kazandı.[2]

Yorubaların başkenti, İle-İfe'ydi. Bu şehirde Kral İfe zamanında güzel saraylar yapıldı ve bir saray sanatı meydana getirildi. Bugün yapılan kazılarda bu başkentin kalıntıları bulunmuştur. Fakat tarihçileri şaşırtan - bu saraylardan ziyâde - kalıntılar arasında bulunan granitten, fildişinden ve bronzdan yapılmış heykeller olmuştur. Bulunan bronz heykeller, sadece tarihçileri değil; sanat eserlerini değerlendirmede uzman olanları da hayretler içinde bırakmış bulunuyor.

Kral, King Ife, İfeUzmanlar, Kral İfe'nin bronz büstü için bir "harika" diyorlar. Bugün Londra'da, British Museum'da bulunan bu heykelin modeli, gerçek kralın kendisidir. Bu heykeli yapan heykeltıraşın da yerli olduğu ve burada daha pek çok sanatkâr yetiştiği,yine yapılan kazılardan anlaşılıyor.

Kral İfe'nin büstü, yalnız heykeltıraşlık eseri olarak değil; Yoruba ırkının güzelliğine örnek olduğu için de önemli sayılıyor.

Bu büstte, kralın burun delikleri küçük ve burnu zariftir. Gözleri, Afrikalılardan ziyade, Asyalılara benziyor.Başında süslü bir tacı var. Dudakla burun arasında ve çenesinin altında bulunan delikler, kralın bıyık ve sakallarından kesilen kıllarla gerçek bir sakal-bıyık yapmak, böylece aslına tam olarak benzetmek için açılmış. Tabii, sakal ve bıyıklar, zamanla düşmüş.

Yapılan kazılar ve araştırmalar gösteriyor ki, Yorubalar, 11. yüzyıldan 16. yüzyıla kadar bağımsız olarak yaşamışlar ve kendi medeniyetlerini kurmuşlardır. 15. ve 16. yüzyıllarda bu medeniyet, en üst seviyesine ulaşmıştır. 15. yüzyılda bir Yoruba kralının Portekiz'i ziyaret ettiğini ve bu ülke ile ticârî ilişkiler kurduğunu tarihler yazıyor. Yine 15. yüzyılda İfe'yi ziyaret eden Portekizli gezginler de krallara ve asillere ait sarayların güzelliğini, zenginliğini anlata anlata bitiremiyorlar. Fakat bu saraylar, ahşap olduğu için günümüze kadar ulaşamamıştır.[1]

On ikinci yüzyıldan itibaren kurulmaya başlanmış Yoruba ve İfe krallıkları, 14. yüzyıldan itibaren kıtayı aydınlatmaya başlayan İslam ışıklarıyla eriyip gitmişlerdir. İslamiyet'in yayılmasıyla, mevcut şehir devletleri ve birçok kabile Müslümanlıkla şereflenmişlerdir. Buna göre Kuzey Nijerya tamamen İslamlaşmış ve geri kalan bölgeler de İslamiyet'in nüfuzu altına girmişti.[4]

Portekizliler, ilk kez 1472'de Nijerya kıyılarına, Lagos'a geldiler. Bu kıyı 16. yüzyıldan 19. yüzyıla değin köle ticaretinin merkezi oldu. Örneğin birçok Siyah Brezilyalı, Yoruba soyundan gelmiştir. Avrupalı sömürgecilerin 1815'te köle ticaretine son vermesinden sonra bu kıyıdaki ticaret büyük ölçüde İngilizler'in denetimine girdi. İngiltere'nin 1851'de ele geçirdiği Lagos, 1861'de bir koloni olarak tahta bağlandı ve İngiliz egemenliği Nijer deltasına yayıldı.[3]

Yeni Kral, Ölen Kral'ın Kalbini Yer, Kafatasıyla İçki İçerdi

Yoruba Krallığı, 50 kadar küçük krallıktan oluşan bir imparatorluğu idare ediyordu. Fakat bu 50 krallıktan oluşan federasyon meclisine kral / imparator, üye olamıyordu. İmparator, asillerden oluşan maiyetiyle birlikte, iktidarda birinci kuvvetti. İkinci kuvveti memurlar meydana getiriyordu ve memurların başı, kral vekili sayılıyordu. Üçüncü kuvvetse, din adamlarıydı. Çok tanrılı bir dine bağlı olan Yorubalar'da rahipler de çoktu. Yorubalar'ın en büyük tanrıları, yaratıcı olduğuna inandıkları Olurun, Olurun'un oğlu Oduduva ve torunu Oni'ydi. Ayrıca ateş tanrısı Şango, ateş ve savaş tanrısı Orgun, deniz tanrısı Olukun ve tarım tanrısı Oko da vardı.

İmparator ya da büyük kral, yanlış bir iş yaptığı zaman; yüksek memurlar, rahiplerin de desteğini almışlarsa onu intihara mecbur ederlerdi. İntihar eden kralın cesedi, rahiplerce yıkanır, kalbi çıkarılır, kafası koparılır ve kurutulurdu. Daha sonra, tanrılara ve eski krallara ait heykellerin bulunduğu bir yerde, yeni kralın taç giyme töreni yapılırdı. Bu tören sırasında yeni kral, intihar eden kralın kalbini yer, onun kafatasından tılsımlı içkiyi içerdi. Böylece neyin iyi ve neyin kötü olduğunu bilebilecek ve buna karar verebilecek bir güce ulaştığına inanılırdı. İster doğal bir ölümle, ister intihar ederek olsun, ölen kralın kafatası, yeni kralın kadehi; kalbi de kutsal aşı olurdu. Cesedi ise öteki kral cesetlerinin yanında kutsal yerini alırdı.[1]

Yorubalar, İnsan Kurban Ederdi

Yorubalar, her yıl ölen son krallarının anısına bir tören düzenler ve bu törenler sırasında insan kurban ederlerdi. Zamanla nüfusun bir kısmı, İslamiyet'i kabul edip putperestliği bıraktılar; ama bazı geleneklerini devam ettirdiler. Son olarak 1897 yılında bir törene karılan bir İngiliz konsülü, insan kurban edildiğine şahit olduğu için öldürüldü. Bunun üzerine İngilizler, buraya bir askerî birlik göndererek başkenti yakıp yıktılar. Kral, ülkesini bırakıp kaçmak zorunda kaldı. Ahşap eserler, tamamen yandı ve heykeller, yağma edildi. Bir kısmı da İngiltere'ye götürüldü. Bugün British Museum'da bulunan bronz ve fildişinden yapılmış heykeller, o savaşta ele geçirilmiş bir ganimetti.

Siyah Afrika'da medeniyet kuran ve yüzyıllarca bağımsız olarak yaşayan millet, sadece Yorubalar değildi. Nijerya'nın başka bir toplumu olan Haoussalar'ın da kurduğu devlet, Yorubalar'ın kurduğu devletten daha eskidir. 14.yüzyılda İslamiyet'i kabul eden ve Arap alfabesini alan Haoussalar, özellikle edebiyatta çok ileriydiler. En ünlü yazılı eserleri, "Kano" adlı tarih kitabıdır. (Metinleri bulabilirsem, siteye koyacağım.) Bu kitapta, 999 yılından 1892 yılına kadar Haousso tarihi, kesintisiz olarak anlatılmaktadır. Bu edebî eser, sadece Haousso'ların değil; bütün Siyah Afrika'nın tarihine de ışık tutmaktadır.[1]

Leo Frobnenius, "Mythologie de L'Atlantide", adlı kitabında Platon'un söz ettiği Atlantis'in aslında Afrika'daki Yoruba Krallığı olduğunu iddia ederek, orada yüksek seviyede bir medeniyetin bir zamanlarda varolduğunun kanıtlarını sunar. Aynı şekilde, Peter Kolosimo da Nijerya ve Benin'de on dokuzuncu yıllar sonunda kalıntıları bulunan eski ve gelişmiş uygarlıktan söz eder ve Atlantis bağlantısını ima eder.[5]

Yoruba krallarına ait heykeller, onlardan kalan fildişi ve ahşap eserler, Haoussalar'ın edebiyat eserleri, potansiyelin varlığını ve zenginliğini göstermiş bulunuyor. Bugün unutulan bu özellik, Afrika kendi rönesansını yarattığı zaman, bütün haşmetiyle ortaya çıkacaktır.[1]

Yorubalar, büyük bir homojenlik gösteren eserler bıraktı. Bunlar, Siyah Afrika sanatının en gelişmiş olanları arasındaydı. İfe kökenli ünlü tunç eserlerin yanı sıra; heykelcikler (Yoruba tanrılarını veya önemli kişileri canlandırırlar), masklar (çoğunlukla çok renkli anıtsal nitelikte olanları da vardır), direkler, süslemeli pano kapıları, çömlekleri ve kumaşları ünlüdür.[2]



16. yüzyıl Benin krallığına ait bu maske, siyahların heykeltıraşlıklarındaki ustalıklarına bir başka belgedir.

Benin Sanatı

Eski Benin Krallığı'na (günümüzde Nijerya; Benin adı, 1975'te Dahomey Cumhuriyeti tarafından benimsenmiştir) özgü sanat.

Yöreye ilk ayak basan Portekizlilerin kentleşmeye geçecek kadar gelişmiş bir uygarlıkla karşılaştıkları Benin'de, 1897'de İngiliz Rawlandson'un yönettiği bir keşif seferinde, Benin kentinde (günümüzde yıkıntıları bile kalmamıştır) bir maden çağı sanatının izlerini ortaya çıkarmıştır. Yörede geliştirilen heykel sanatını yaratan kuyumcular, Afrika'nın ve dünyanın ilk heykelleri arasında yer alırlar. Daha çok hükümdar (Oba) ve ailesinin övülmesi ve tanıtılması amacıyla yapılmış tunç ve fildişi heykelciklere dayanan bu saray sanatçıları küçük masklar, bilezikler, heykel-portreler, doğal büyüklükte insan başları, Oba'nın yiğitliklerini anlatan öykülü levhalar, erimiş balmumuna dökülmüş ve elde işlenmiş tunçtan horoz ve leoparlar yapmışlardır. Söz konusu sanatın geçirdiği evrim, Benin krallarının tahta çıkış sırası bilindiği için, tarihsel olaylara dayandırılarak kesin biçimde saptanmıştır: Benin'de bu tekniğin incelikleri, benin kralına bağımlı komşu Yoruba krallığı'nın kutsal kenti İfe'den gelme tunç işleyen sanatçılar tarafından öğretiliyor, en usta kuyumculara soyluluk unvanları veriliyordu; atölyeler saray surlarının içinde yer almaktaydı (İfe kenti dışında Afrika'nın hiç bir yerinde tanınmayan bu sanatın, bütünüyle Benin Krallığı zanaatçılarının ürünü olduğu ortaya konmuştur).

En eski dönemlerde, İfe üslubunun etkileri oldukça güçlüdür ve yalnızca oyulmuş tunçtan büyük çanlar, kesin olarak Benin'e mal edilebilir. İncelikle işlenmiş büyük portreler 1350-1500 yıllarından kalmadır. Benin sanatı en parlak dönemini XVI.-XVII. yüzyıllarda yaşamıştır: savaşlardaki kahramanlıkları, saray yaşamından sahneler gösteren levhalar; baş heykelleri; borazancılar; atlı soylular; ellerinde silahlarla Avrupalılar; vb.

XVIII. yüzyıldaysa Benin sanatının çöküş dönemi başlamış, ayrıntılarla yüklenen üslup, etkinliğini yitirmiştir. daha da önemlisi, ülke yoksullaşıp dışarıdan tunç getirilmeyince sanatçıların ağaç üstüne tunç saç uygulama tekniğine yönelmeleriyle heykel sanatı yozlaşmaya başlamış, en özgün yanını oluşturan tarihsel olayların anlatıldığı levhalar zamanla ortadan kalkmıştır. XIX. yüzyılda yalnızca fildişi heykelciliği varlığını sürdürmüş, bir süre sonra da tuncun yerini bütünüyle ağaç almıştır.[6]


Yoruba Kingdom (English)

History

The term Yoruba describes a number of semi-independent peoples loosely linked by geography, language, history, and religion. The Yoruba of southwestern Nigeria (see blue area of map) and neighboring Benin and Togo number over 15 million people. Most live within the borders of the tropical forest belt, but the remnants of the powerful Oyo kingdom include groups that live at the fringes of the northern savanna grasslands. Archaeological evidence suggests that the ancestors of the Yoruba may have lived in this same general area of Africa since prehistoric times. In the mid-18th century, the slave trade to the Americas dramatically affected all of West Africa. Slaves of Yoruba descent were resettled in Cuba and Brazil, where elements of Yoruba culture and language can still be found.

Traditional Yoruba city-states were sub-divided into over 25 complex, centralized kingdoms. Of these, Ile-Ife is universally recognized as the most senior and most ritually important Yoruba city. The founding of Ife is believed to date to about 850 AD. The rival Oyo kingdom just to the northwest of Ife, was founded about 1350 AD. The Oni of Ife and the Alafin of Oyo are still the most highly respected Yoruba kings in Nigeria. Other major kingdoms were Ijesha and Ekiti to the northeast; the Shabe, Ketu, Egbado, Ijebu, and Awori in the southwest; and the Ondo, Owo, and Itsekiri in the southeast.

For centuries, the Yoruba have lived in large, densely populated cities where they are able to practice the specialized trades that provide goods and services for the society as a whole. Most will commute to the countryside for part of the year to raise staples such as yams and cassava on family farms. Each city-state will maintain its own interpretation of history, religious traditions, and unique art style, yet all will acknowledge the ritual sovereignty of Ife, honor the pantheon of Yoruba gods, and will seek solutions to the problems of everyday life from Yoruba The Gods

Traditional Yoruba religion is centered around a pantheon of deities called orisha. When a child is born, a diviner, or babalawo, will be consulted to determine which orisha the child should follow. As adults, the Yoruba often honor several of these deities. According to oral tradition, the high god, Olorun (Olodumare), asked Orishala to descend from the sky to create the first Earth at Ile-Ife. Orishala was delayed and his younger brother, Oduduwa, accomplished the task. Shortly afterwards, sixteen other orisha came down from heaven to create human beings and live on Earth with him. The descendants of each of these deities are said to have spread Yoruba culture and religious principles throughout the rest of Yorubaland.

Respecting the ritual primacy of the holy city of Ife legitimizes both a royal hierarchy and the basic pantheon of Yoruba gods, estimated variously at 201, 401, 601, or more. Some divinities are primordial, having existed when Oduduwa was creating the Earth, and others are heroes or heroines who left an important impression on the people. Divinities may also be natural phenomena, such as mountains, hills, and rivers that have influenced the peoples' history and lives. Of the hundreds of gods worshipped by the Yoruba, the most popular (some of whom are discussed or otherwise represented in the sections that follow) are Sango (god of thunder and lightning), Ifa ( also known as Orunmila, god of divination), Eshu (the messenger and trickster god), Ogun (god of iron and of war), Proceed through this exhibit, return to the Doorway , or compare with the Akan section.[7]

 Yoruba Kings

Yoruba kings who can claim direct descent from the god Oduduwa (perhaps over 700 today!) are addressed as Oba. They alone are permitted to wear the Yoruba sacred regalia, the conical bead crown and beaded slippers, and to carry a beaded fly whisk. Beadwork is a royal prerogative, associated as closely with kingship as special woven textile patterns (Kente) are for the Asante kings of central Ghana. The wealthiest Yoruba kings retain families of bead specialists to embroider their royal garments. By extension, elements of this royal form of dress are used by priests and devotees of the thunder god, Sango, and the agricultural god, Oko, both of whom are linked to kingship by Yoruba origin myths.

Typical beadwork motifs include the interlace and the zig-zag patterns, a frontal face with ethnic marks under the eyes, and a tiny bird. The interlace pattern is a symbol of leadership, of eternal or unending royal authority. It is sometimes represented as two snakes biting or eating each other, signifying that one persons demise is anothers beginning. The zig-zag pattern of triangles provides visual tension and movement reinforced by alternating colors and, on some objects, a delightful asymmetrical placement. The shapes are similar to those on the back of the Gabon viper, a beautiful but very poisonous African snake that the god of iron, Ogun, may "carry without fear." The abstracted face which is freely embroidered into many royal garments may refer to Oduduwa, ancestor of all Yoruba kings, to Eshu, messenger of the gods, or to the inventor of beads himself. This particular bird motif represents okin, a tiny whitish bird with a long white tail that distinguishes it as the king of birds. Birds, such as the one found atop the Opa orere staff, are also associated with divination, medicine, and witchcraft. The herbalist and diviner, like the king, must be able to incorporate the apparently contradictory powers of destruction, healing, and harmony in order to control and manipulate them.[8]

The God-King, Sango

In Yoruba myth, Sango once ruled as the fourth Alafin of Oyo. After his extraordinary life and controversial death, his friends revered him as a god. His cult has enjoyed the royal patronage of the Alafin of Oyo, who is regarded as his descendant. Sango's cult played an important role in securing the people's loyalty to the Alafin in the days of the Oyo Empire.

Sango's devotees regard him as the embodiment of great creative potential, unfortunately one that was tragically and unpredictably tempted to exceed its own limits and thereby destroyed what it had created. This dedication to the power over life and death and to creativity is reflected in Sango's shrines, such as the one found at the compound of Baale Koso in Oyo, which overflow with carvings, ceramics, and other artwork. A well-carved mortar, ritual container, figure, or dance staff is believed to be able to better focus the worshippers attention on the important attributes of the god and to better lure the spirit to the shrine. Small images of twins (ere Ibeji) are also often stored in the shrine, as legend states that Sango was himself a twin.

In 1910, Leo Frobenius took this photo of an interior of a Sango shrine in Ibadan. It impressed him greatly, and he wrote that "a lofty, long and very deep recess made a gap in the row of fantastically carved and brightly painted columns. These were sculptured with horsemen, men climbing trees, monkeys, women, gods and all sorts of mythological carved work. The dark chamber behind revealed a gorgeous red ceiling, pedestals with stone axes on them, wooden figures, cowrie-shell hangings..."

Carvings of horsemen, with archers and foot-soldiers at their sides, are depicted on many objects including houseposts, doors, and festival masks, such as this Epa mask. The Oyo Empires three centuries of military dominance depended heavily upon the victories of its cavalry. Large war horses, costing up to 120,000 cowries each, had to be imported from the northern savanna regions. This left a great impression on the forest peoples, where horses were expensive and could not survive for long.

Sango worshipers may be called to follow him in many ways. Most are taught by their parents and family, others consult a diviner. Sometimes men and women are suddenly possessed or called to Sango in a dream. Many of the devotees are female, and even male priests dress as females. Most carvings and wooden figures associated with Sango also depict females.

Sango's symbol, the twin-stone ax, or oshe Sango, is believed to be energized with protective powers. It is used as a badge of membership in the cult. Sango is a god who possesses his devotees by entering their heads. When a priestess has been seized by the spirit of the god, she will dance with the wand in her left hand. A twin-stone ax rises out of the top of the wand's carved head, symbolizing this dramatic change and representing priest and deity simultaneously. As she moves, a chorus of women call out the praises of Sango, and an orchestra of drummers beat out sharp, erratic, staccato rhythms on their Bata drums. Suddenly, the priestess will wave her wand fiercely, threatening the audience, mimicing with her movements lightning lashing from storm clouds and then quietly receding.

The Neolithic stone axes, or thunderstones of Sango, are held aloft in a caryatid wooden bowl (arugbe Sango). In some areas, an inverted mortar serves as a pedestal (odo Sango), like the one depicted here of a Sango priestess and a dog. The sound of yams being pounded in a mortar resembles the pounding of thunder in the heavens. By inverting the mortar, the priestess hopes to mute Sango's destructive power. The sides of the ritual mortar are carved with Sango-associated emblems and figures, such as in this example, a priestess holding a gourd rattle (shere) used to call the deity, and a dog, symbol of faithfulness and speed in the forest.

A kneeling women holding her breasts in respect, as in this housepost depicting a kneeling Sango priestess, or offering a fowl in thanks, or holding a bowl filled with kola nuts is a popular subject in Yoruba art. Figures in this pose are known as olumeye, meaning "one who knows honor." They are found on the altars of many Yoruba deities. The model for the pose is that of a kneeling young bride, with her hair dressed in a traditional crested style called agogo. Her strands of waist beads signify virginity. As a decorative support at the entrance to a Sango shrine, the female may be depicted as a priestess wearing beaded dance panels (yata Sango).[9]

Yoruba Gods

Man and the Gods

Ifa is the oracle of divination who mediates between the gods and men. The gods are believed to communicate their motives through the process of divination. The priest is able to suggest actions that will avert misfortune. Through Ifa divination an individual, or whole town, can obtain solutions to difficult problems and restore good relations between themselves and the gods.

Eshu-Elegba is the messenger of the gods. He is the youngest, most agile, and quick witted. He causes trouble for those who neglect the other gods. It is Eshu who delivers the sacrifices that have been prescribed by the Ifa diviner to Olorun, the distant high god. Eshu and Ifa are therefore intimates in the business of manipulating the destinies of men. Eshu is the only deity acutally portrayed in Yoruba art. It is Eshu's face that is represented on many Ifa divination boards and occasionally on objects used by all the other cults. In character with his contradictory nature, Eshu dance staffs (ogo Elegba) are frequently held head downward.

Eshu's long, phallic hairstyle is regarded as the "sign" of his bond of friendship with Ifa, the god of divination. In one story, Ifa pretended he was dead in order to test the devotion of those around him. He was disappointed by everyone except Eshu. Even though the trickster god was in the process of shaving his head, he was so overcome by grief with the news that he rushed to Ifa's bedside with his hair half shaved. Ifa recognized his friend's faithfulness and asked Eshu to continue to let his hair grow in this half-shaved style forever.

Eshu figures are usually decorated with beads and cowries, but the god may also be symbolized by a simple chunk of uncarved stone. The Meyer Collection figurative stone sculpture depicted here may be an exceptionally rare shrine piece. It depicts Eshu seated on a stool. Carved in a terse, compact style, only half of its length is discolored, suggesting that it had once been buried in the ground.

The Ifa corpus is made up of several hundred figures, orodu, each associated with a large body of independent verses known as ese Ifa. The god, Ifa, is called to attention by the diviner (babalawo) with a conical tapper, sometimes made of ivory (iroke-Ifa). A cup (agere-Ifa) carved with a scene from one of these verses serves as a "home" for the sacred palm nuts. By throwing sixteen of these nuts (ikin) on a powdered divination board (opon Ifa) and studying the marks left in the sawdust, the diviner is able to determine which of the several hundred odu should be recited. He then begins to call out a series of verses from this chapter, until the client recognizes one as significant. After several throws a meaningful text will begin to coalesce. For example, the babalawo may piece together the following cluster of verses for a man whom he has divined will be honored:

Nobody despises fire
And wraps it up in a cloth.
Nobody despises the snake
And ties it round his waist as a belt.
Nobody despises the king
And hits him on the head.
Today people must honor me.

(Beier: 1959:57)

The Ifa divination accessories are stored in a large bowl (opon igere) with the board itself sitting under it. To entice the spirit forces they represent, bowls and boards are frequently emblazoned with the face of Eshu, the trickster god, or they can be more elaborately carved with a series of panels often representing other major deities and spirit forces. The subjects of the relief panels are not narratively linked. They are essentially recognizable emblems that summarize overlapping concepts that continually reverberate throughout Yoruba culture the hunter, the supplicant, the bird, the warrior, the snake, the chameleon, the act of procreation. The number of relief panels will vary according to the importance of the commission. The four-sided projection at the top of some bowls recalls the form of the royal crown worn by kings descended from Oduduwa. In fact, royal beaded crowns are themselves revered as "shrines to the head."

The head is an important concept in Yoruba art and ritual. The verandah pole depicting an Ifa priest with his head half shaven recalls the story of the special bond of friendship between Eshu and Ifa. It also signifies that the priest is officiating at an initiation ceremony. The Yoruba customarily shave the head on ritual occasions, because the spirits are believed to enter and leave a person through his head. Every human being has been given a "head," or destiny, prior to birth that can only be foreseen and arbitrated through divination. However, each person also has the ability to tap the power of this "inner head" (ori inu) to achieve their full potential in life. One's character and personality are said to emanate from this inner head. Its physical manifestation is a small conical "shrine of the head" (ibori) that is kept in a larger, crown-like container, or "house of the head" (ile-ori). Both are non-figurative, made of leather, and strung with cowries. The more successful an individual is in life, the more cowries he will be able to embroider on his container. The "house of the head" of a king is, therefore, always very large and elaborate. At death, the whole sculpture will be dismantled and dispersed.

The verandah pole in the Meyer Collection depicts an Ifa priest carrying a divining staff (opa osun, orere), in his right hand and a prestige cane in his left. His special half-shaved hairstyle indicates that he is officiating over an initiation and may be a reference to the story of the origin of the friendship between Ifa and Eshu. A priest brings out this special iron staff at large, community-oriented functions. The staff symbolizes the diviner's power over death and other destructive forces, for it is believed that if a cock is sacrificed to the staff, death will be tricked into taking the crying sound of the fowl in place of the human being. The head, wings, and feet of the cock are tied to the shaft as spiritual nourishment for the power of the staff. A lone metal bird perches at the top. It is welded to a flat disc which rests on the inverted bottom part of hollow, metallic cones or bells. Other sets of bells decorate the length of the staff. This bird is a symbolic link between the earth and sky. The sixteen birds that surround another staff, that of the Osanyin, the god of herbal medicine, represent various aggressive and malevolent spiritual forces with which man must cope. But the lone bird of the Ifa staff is believed to represent a much higher power--the swift and decisive "soul" of divination, which protects both the diviner and his clients as they seek to probe the hidden wishes and motives of the gods.[10]


Shaping: The Blacksmith

Forged-iron figurative sculpture is not common in Africa, but Yoruba blacksmiths pound, weld, and cast several types of very elegant standards, such as those carried by Ifa cult priests, those planted in the ground at the shrines of Osanyin herbalists, and those pounded from hoes into a sword-like staff for the deity of agriculture, Oko. These are the same artisans who produce the everyday tools of the leatherworkers, woodcarvers, and farmers. Some of these men also know how to do ornamental and ritual brass casting using the "lost-wax" process. Most of this casting work is done on commission for the Ogboni (or Osugbo) society. This is a secret society comprised of elders dedicated to maintaining law and order in a community. The society worships the Earth and values the incorruptible quality of brass. It is famous for its twin ritual brasses (edan) joined from the head by a metal chain. Some of the stylistic abstraction of cast-metal art can be attributed to differences in media and technique. Some may be due to the abstract character of the Ogboni society's subject of veneration - Earth itself. Regional variation in style may also be involved. Until late in the last century, the Ogboni cult was a southern forest phenomenon, while wood carving has long been practiced throughout Nigeria. Yet both woodcarvers and brasscasters depict the figure in basically the same manner: frontal, expressionless, and with great attention to meaningful detail, especially around the head.

Occasionally, the caster will create items for other cults. The covered brass bowl with four figures in the Meyer Collection may be either an Ogboni-related medicine bowl or a container for an Ifa diviners sacred palm nuts. At least one important divination verse compares Ifa to brass, stating "White ants never devour brass, worms do not eat lead. I (Ifa) am humble, hence I have become a god." Secular or cult prestige staffs were sometimes commissioned by chiefs or important dignitaries. As public staffs of office or chief's messenger staffs, they incorporate symbols of leadership and are sometimes heavily ornamented with figures. The worship of the god of iron, Ogun, also requires certain brass-cast objects. Anyone who uses iron in any form should honor the god of iron. Of course, most occupations and institutions use iron, so the symbol of Ogun is widely mingled with images of most other deities. Even the woodcarver will carefully maintain a shrine to Ogun and make offerings there before felling a tree or beginning a new work. Like the Opa Osanyin herbalist, whose metal staff with birds is shown above, the blacksmiths use staffs (iwana Ogun) and swords with open-work and incised patterns (ada Ogun) to define status in their trade, to advertise a mastery of their craft, and to ornament shrines to Ogun. The senior blacksmith's staff is in the form of an iron poker with a figurative cast-brass handle. At the top of the poker sits a titled Ogun devotee, dressed militantly, holding weapons, and wearing the insignia of his office - an openwork headdress, bandoleers of medicines, charms, and beads.[11]


Cutting: The Woodcarver

Both brasscaster and woodcarver demonstrate a mastery over very different media and techniques. They each follow a prescribed series of steps that they have learned after years of apprenticeship. Both must select their materials carefully from a wide choice of woods and alloys according to the function and scale of the project at hand. Houseposts and drums are carved from heavy wood, while certain masks and utensils will be carved from light, soft woods. The woodcarver prefers to work with a green, moist wood. He will first carry out a private divination ritual to determine the spiritual qualities of the wood, adjust for its idiosyncracies with an offering, then cut down the tree and select the section he needs. Like the blacksmith (whose ceremonial sword dedicated to the god of iron is depicted here), he will make a blood sacrifice to the god of iron to ensure concentration and protection from injury. Woodcarvers use the adze, the knife, the chisel, and the axe. Of these, the adze shape is most important, for it will be used to remove most of the wood; the knife is useful for final details--details such as are in evidence in the larger (42K) version of this bowl. The work should flow naturally and efficiently from one stage to the next. In woodcarving, the first stage, ona lile, involves quickly roughing out the major volumes with the adze. In less than one fifth of the time it takes to finish the entire piece, an experienced carver will be able to remove almost half of the weight of the original block of wood. The second stage, aletunle, takes somewhat longer, but only about 10 percent of the weight of the block is removed. At the end of these first two stages, the final shape of the sculpture has been irrevocably fixed. The third stage, didon, takes nearly as long as the second stage, but only about three percent of the weight of the original block is removed. After an appropriate decoration is decided upon, the final stage, fifin, can begin. This stage is the most tedious, and less than one percent of the weight of the original block is actually removed. To save time, the smoothing down and cutting in of fine details may be turned over to an apprentice. It is interesting to note that when the carving is at last complete, the weight of the wood has changed dramatically, but its physical dimensions have altered very little - a tribute to the skill and planning of the experienced artist.

Any work of art owes its existence to the people and culture from which it has emerged. It has a functional and historical relationship with that culture. Although the art forms in wood and metal created by the Yoruba are used to adorn and declare social status, many help establish the presence of a spirit. A well-made artwork can call forth both divine and human spirits. Special ceremonies and symbols facilitate this conceptual and formal transformation. Classic motifs become recognizable when we have learned more about the fundamental principles of traditional Yoruba and Akan religion. Differences in "style" are more evident when we have a better understanding of media and technique. Ultimately, by expanding our knowledge of the African people, we learn to better appreciate their art.[12]

Kaynaklar

[1] Harikalar Ansiklopedisi, "Siyahların Medeniyeti", Tercüman Gençlik Yayınları, İstanbul, s. 43-47.
[2] "Yorubalar", www.boyutpedia.com/default~ID~1327~aID~42359~link~yorubalar.html
[3] "Nijerya-Tarihi-Ekonomisi'tarım ve Sanayi", www.nuveforum.net/1730-genel-kultur-n/68133-nijerya-tarihi-ekonomisitarim-sanayi/
[4] "Nijerya ve Nijerya tarihi", www.msxlabs.org/forum/ulkeler-ve-tarihleri/10702-nijerya-ve-nijerya-tarihi.html
[5] "Voodoo ve Okültizm", www.gizliilimler.tr.gg/Voodoo-ve-Ok.ue.ltizm.htm
[6] "Benin Sanatı", www.msxlabs.org/forum/sanat/267283-benin-sanati.html
[7] "History", www.fa.indiana.edu/~conner/yoruba/cut.html
[8] "The Kings", www.fa.indiana.edu/~conner/yoruba/kings.html
[9] "The God- King, Sango", ww.fa.indiana.edu/~conner/yoruba/sango.html
[10] "Man and the Gods", www.fa.indiana.edu/~conner/yoruba/man.html
[11] "Shaping: The Blacksmith", www.fa.indiana.edu/~conner/yoruba/blacksmith.html
[12] "Cutting: The Woodcarver", www.fa.indiana.edu/~conner/yoruba/woodcarver.html







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