Exhibition “Gods, Directions for Use”

10 October 2019 12 January 2020

On loan four objects of the Musée Barbier-Mueller collection

  • Three ifa divination trays. Yoruba, Nigeria. Wood. W. 30.5 cm; 32.8 cm; 43 cm. Inv. 1011-74c; 1011-74d; 1011-167. Musée Barbier-Mueller.

Ifa is a form of West African divination centred on the Yoruba, though it has been taken up by neighbouring peoples. Its first step involves translating the way manipulated objects fall to make marks on the central panels of these boards. The boards are dusted with ground residue from termite-eaten wood to provide a suitable medium and although the deity to be invoked is Orunmila, he is approached throught the trickster, messenger god, Eshu, whose face occurs in the outer perimeter of each board and normally serves to orientate it for the diviner. Boards of famous diviners are held to acquire special powers over time.

  • Effigy of a deceased person sitting on a box. Bembe, Republic of Congo. Hard wood, shiny patina, pearls and resin. H. 28 cm. Inv. 1021-12. Musée Barbier-Mueller.

The figure is sitting on a box containing a closed receptacle made of a pliable material decorated with imported pearls and brass nails. It may contain relics such as nails and hair. Thus, the sculpture is both a reliquary figure and an image commemorating the deceased.

The Friends of the Musée Barbier-Mueller enjoy free entrance to the exhibitions presenting loans from the Musée Barbier-Mueller.