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The Yoruba Ile-Ori and its Cowries A complex example of a complex world view of money

The Yoruba Ile-Ori and its Cowries A complex example of a complex world view of money

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Published by atomlinson_teague
A fast research paper on AFrican Yoruba peoples showing sexualization of objects and humanization/empowering of objects in culture
A fast research paper on AFrican Yoruba peoples showing sexualization of objects and humanization/empowering of objects in culture

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Published by: atomlinson_teague on Aug 28, 2012
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05/14/2013

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The multicultural perspective of African arts show them to have an interdependent
 
 nature; where the verbal and visual components link through references and allusionsproviding a support system where knowledge of both is needed to gain insight.
1
Withineach example of art from Africa, individual minutiae can be researched to show that theytoo have their own narratives that independently add interest but as a whole create a literaland figurative puzzle for Art Historians to solve. Belief systems, iconography, imageryand composition all vary from region to region within the continent itself, only being evenmore complicated by a vast system of ornate spoken languages that number in thehundreds.The definition of power in Africa is one that is difficult to come by consideringhow unique each region is in terms of believe systems. Based on unique perspectives,power does not always come from beauty or importance, value or great wealth. Thedistinctive aspects of objects considered both artistic and religious and why they are sopowerful to African people is a complex issue; an amalgam of political, psychological,sociological, and religious and world views collectively. It is near impossible to define“wealth” as seen by all African eyes as there is no singular collective acceptance. To focuson one self described group would help outline how and why certain objects are seen asbeautiful, valued, sources of wealth and power concurrently.A good example of the complexity of the definition of wealth can be found byexamining the Yoruba peoples and their cultural object known as the
ile-ori
or “house of the head” that has proven itself to be almost ubiquitous in the life of Yoruba.
2
Yoruba arthas been documented throughout many art journals and by many Art Historians and
1
Abiodun, Akande. "Issues on Yoruba Aesthetic Terminologies."
 Nigerian Art REFLECTIONS: A Journal of TheSociety of Nigerian Artists
3 (2003): 34.
 
2
Abiodun, Rowland. "Verbal and visual metaphors: mythical allusions in Yoruba ritualistic art of Ori."
WORD IMAGE: African Art and Literature
3, no. 3 (1987): 257.
 
 
 Anthropologists to the extent that some might say that the culture has a dominant role inthe amount of information circulating about Africa in general.
3
Which is an oddrealization to come to considering the Yoruba people, though widespread, are generallyonly heavily populated in the country of Nigeria and comprise a minute portion of a vastpopulation of cultures. The truth about the world-view of Africa is sadly the definition of the word “vague” because much of its culture is hidden within the barely studied or evenheard languages spanning its landscapes. For every language that exists and every culturethat is either thriving or dying there are probably hundreds more that have been lost. As aresult of the focused and ample information about a limited number of cultures there maybe a tendency to take the meanings of the objects at surface value failing to appraise theobject from a holistic approach. It is impossible to give appraisal to Yoruba art withoutreference to their views. Looking deeper at ile-ori in terms of its purpose and its use of cowry shells reveals a Yoruba view where wealth is built of spiritual power.
 Ile-ori
keeps the physical representation of the
ori
or head and refers to thepresence of the
inu-ori
or “inner head”. Note that here the use of the word “head” inYoruba language refers to the spirit as recognized in Western cultures. In Yorubathought, all people are comprised of two heads; the inner and the outer. The outer is theliteral appearance of a person but it is never fully forward and often hiding truth andmasking intentions. The inner head is thought to be directly linked to spiritual energy asit is part of that spirit world itself. Made of pure potential power or “
ase
” these parts of ourselves are the key links to who we are and to our very life essence.
4
According toYoruba social norms the
inu-ori
is so crucial to a successful life that it is propitiated
3
Picton, John. "Yoruba: A Celebration of African Art."
 African Arts
25, no. 1 (1992): 82.
4
Drewal, Margaret and Henry John. "Composing Time and Space in Yoruba Art."
WORD IMAGE: African Art 

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