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1 CURE OR CAPITA LISM: AN EXAMINATION OF A 1960s YORB SAPONA FIGURE BY KIMBERLY NICOLE MORRIS A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2013
2 2013 Kimberly Nicole Morris
3 To my family
4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I thank my committee member Robin Poynor, and my adviser, Victoria Rovine. I thank my family, who never doubted me.
5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 4 LIST OF FIGURES ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 6 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 7 CHAPTER 1 I NTRODUCTION ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 8 2 POWER IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER: VISUAL EFFICACY IN YORUBA HEALING CEREMONIES ................................ ................................ ....................... 11 Egngn ................................ ................................ ................................ ................. 14 Gelede ................................ ................................ ................................ .................... 17 l ................................ ................................ ................................ ......................... 23 3 AN EXAMINATION OF A YORB SAPONA FIGURE ................................ ......... 36 4 A SURVEY OF HEALING IMAGERY IN THE WORKS OF THREE CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS ................................ ................................ ................. 67 Gera ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................ 6 8 Zwelethu Mthethwa ................................ ................................ ................................ 73 Abdoulaye Konat ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 75 5 CONCLUSION ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 89 BIBLIOGRAPHY ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 91 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ ............................ 95
6 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 1 1 Sapona figure ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 10 2 1 Gelede masquerade. ................................ ................................ .......................... 31 2 2 ................................ ............................ 32 2 3 A Gelede dancer wearing a hoop around his chest with head ties ................... 33 2 4 Spirit bird Photo Credit: Henry and Margaret Drewal ................................ .......... 34 2 5 Mr. F.F. Afo labi and his l Photo Credit: David T. Doris ................................ 35 3 1 Sapona figure Harn Museum My own photograph ................................ ............. 56 3 2 Map of Nigeria, Vidiani.com ................................ ................................ ................ 57 3 3 Yorb shrine couple Dallas Museum of Art ................................ ...................... 57 3 4 Staff for Shango Dallas Museum of Ar t ................................ .............................. 58 3 5 Ceremonial weapon for the Ogun cult. University of California, San Diego ........ 59 3 6 Sakpata altar, Benin ................................ ................................ ........................... 60 3 7 Beaded broom, Fowler Museum at UCLA ................................ .......................... 61 3 8 Center for Disease Control Sapona figure, Public Health Image Library ............ 62 3 9 Twin figure ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 63 4 1 Powerful Medicine Protective scroll (detail), eighteenth century ........................ 82 4 2 1974 ................................ ................................ ......................... 83 4 3 Gera, The Seal of Glory 1996 ................................ ................................ ............ 84 4 4 Close up of painting in Drame au Sahel and installation Drame au Sahel .......... 85 4 5 Abdoulaye Konat, Bosnie Rwanda Angola, 2005 ................................ ............. 86 4 6 Abdoulay Konat, Gris gris pour Israel et le Palestine, 2006 ............................ 87 4 7 Abdoulaye Konate, Les Artistes Africains et le SIDA 2006 ................................ 88
7 Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts CURE OR CAPITA LISM: AN EXAMINATION OF A 1960s YORB SAPONA FIGURE By Kimberly Morris August 2013 Chair: Victoria Rovine Major: Art History In the late 1960s, numerous employees of the Center for Disease Contro l purchased wooden figures of S apona, the Yorb god of smallpox, during the the disease in Nigeria. This thesis examines a Shapona figure donated by a CDC employee to the Harn Museum of Art. It aims to determine whether the figure was originally used by those who adhere to Yorb religion. Ms. Morris argues that the Yorb beg an producing these anthropomorphic Shapona figures to capitalize on a new market of foreign medical workers. The project begins with a discussion of the role of visual arts in Yorb healing techniques, and concludes with a survey of contemporary African artists whose work incorporates references to healing.
8 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION In the late 1960s, Center for Disease Control (CDC) employees stationed in Nigeria to eradicate smallpox collected over fifty wooden Sapona figures like the one in the 1 ]. The Yorb who adhere to the indigenous religion r arely utter the name Sapona, who is the orisa or god of smallpox. There are certainly no known anthropomorphic representations of him in the literature on Yoruba art. What were these objects used for then? Were they used in a religious ceremony or made t o sell to a new market? My project attempts to answer these questions by providing a detailed visual analysis of the object and by placing the object in a cultural re cords and more broadly to scholarship of African visual culture in order to avoid falsely assigning spiritual relevance to a trade piece. To inform my understanding of Yorb healing techniques I begin with a chapter on classical Yorb healing methods. figure in the second chapter, and I end my project with a survey of contemporary artists whose work makes reference to healing. It is important to note that not all Yorb adhere to the indigenous religion. To day, as in the 1960s when the Sapona figures were collected, many Nigerians are Christian and Muslim. When I speak of the Yorb then, I refer specifically to those practicing the indigenous religion. In the first chapter I examine the visual culture surrounding four Yorb healing practices in Nigeria including Gld Egngn and l I begin by acknowledging Yorb deities who are pivotal in healing practices. These deities include Osanyin, Orunmila, and Eshu. I focus my research on three publi cations, one for each healing
9 practice, taking a similar approach to analyzing each. I use The G l d Spectacle: Art, Gender, and Social Harmony in African Culture by Babatunde Lawal to examine the G l d masquerade performed by the Yorb. I provid e a visual analysis of l which David Doris writes about in his book Vigilant Things I explain who creates l in Yorb society and provide a brief history of the objects. To examine Egngn I rely Egngn Among the Oy o Yoruba. Diseases, including HIV/AIDS, are a prevalent subject in contemporary art produced in Africa. In chapter three, I shift gears and consider artists from three countries who reference healing in their work. I compare the way that each artist, Abdoulaye Konate, Gera, and Zwelethu Mthethwa, uses his work to comment on health. Malian artist Abdoulaye Konate began working with large scale textiles to comment on economic and social challenges in the early 1990s. I examine works such as Gris gris blancs pour Isral et la Palestine, created in 2006, in which he alludes to health and epidemics. I also examine the talismans of Ethiopian artist, Gera. After Jacques to a healer. Lastly, I consider the works of Zwelethu Mthethwa, an internationally known South African artist interested in medicine. Mthethwa uses photography to document Sangoma healers from rural towns in South Africa who migrated to cities in the 198 0s. I examine this body of photographs and attempt to determine their how viewers use these images.
10 Figure 1 1 Sapona figure
11 CHAPTER 2 POWER IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER: VISUAL EFFICACY IN YORUBA HEALING CEREMONI ES Yorb Gelede ceremonies often last for well over a week and consist of performers who dance jovially to appease Iya Nla (Big Mother). l objects which any Yorb person can place in their home or on their land, serve as preventative medicine by deterring potential thieves. Egngn ceremonies cure the community of physical and social ills such as disease and witchcraft. I will survey these three Yorb practices i n order to illustrate the healing powers that ceremonies and objects gain through their visual, not only medicinal, characteristics. The common threads that weave through the literature on Gelede, l, and Egngn, illuminate the role of visual efficacy in Yorb concepts of healing. The power of each medicinal ceremony and object is held not only in their literal medicine, such as oogun or medicine stored in l, but also in their visual impact. In this survey of Yorb ceremonies, I will also elabora te on three important aspects of Yorb culture relevant to the three healing techniques: ancestors, power of women, and medicinal power. It is important to note here the importance of other Yorb orisa in the healing process. Robert Farris Thompson desc 1 In the beginning, Olorun decided to provide earth with an orisa who could provide healing and Osanyin posses that knowledge Osanyin, orisa of medicine and healing is represented with a bird topped iron staff. 2 The birds on top of the staff refer to both the 1 James Lindroth African American Review 30.2 (1996): 109. 2 African Arts 28.1 (1995): 52.
12 power of the orisa and the power of women who can be witches, on which I will elaborate in the Gelede section. 3 Witc hes in Yorb belief are powerful and can use 4 Both are images of hot color ed birds, and thus hot tempered witches. The long beak refers to the witch bird pecking the head of its target at night to suck out blood which causes the person to become ill and even die. The witch may also render a victim impotent by eating his soul w hile he sleeps. Yorb herbalists follow the orisa wrath. Herbalists can counter witches using their iron staff which often shows one dominant bird on top of the staff, with sixteen smaller birds surrounding the staff below him. One herbalist said of the staff, The witches are so terrible. Someone who holds the position of native herbalist must have the bird on his staff. The birds that kill people and cause sickness and make people afraid when they see that the herbalist has the bird in iron on his staff they will love the man and fear him. 5 Another Yourba herbalist Agbekeke Asoko, who is a priestess of another healing deity Erinle, associated the bird on the top of her staff to Sapona, the orisa of smallpox that I discuss in C hapter 2. She said that her staff was made of iron because the god of iron, Ogun, clears the path for all other orisa to complete their duties. 6 3 used in scholarship about Africa. The term, however, is loaded. In the United States it can imply a fictional character. 4 Thompson, Black Gods and Kings, 11/2. 5 Thompson, Black Gods and Kings 11/3. 6 Thompson, Black Gods and Kings 11/3.
13 Several other orisa are pivotal in the healing process. Orunmila is the oldest son of Olorun, the sky deity, and is in charge of divination. 7 Without him no healing, which often involves divination, would be possible. Able to read the future and understand the secret of existence, he descended to ea rth to teach humans how to be diviners. 8 He created a concoction of leaves and offered it to the women who in turn learned to respect and pity him. He posses the in sight and an intelligence to converse with the witches. These women posses ase or spirit, which is neither good nor bad and Orunmila uses symbols such as bells and leaves to translate their powers into positive energy. 9 Eshu, the trickster god in the Yo rb religious pantheon, not only plays a role in divination but is also visually relevant to the Sapo na figure that is the focus of C hapter 2. This orisa plays the opposite role of Orunmila, who is considered a cool god who can control fate. Eshu turns fate around and is the cause of random acts. 10 In the same way that Orunmila acts as a laison between humans and the gods, carrying messages from Olorun to the earth, Eshu carries messages from the earth to Olorun. 11 This hot god can destroy anyone who off ends him, so his devotees are careful to show him respect. 12 It is also important to note that Nigerians do not solely rely on ceremonial 7 Horace G. Courlander, Tales of Yoruba Gods and Heroes (New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1973), 6. 8 Courlander, Tales of Yoruba Gods and Heroes, 15 22. 9 Thompson, Black Gods and Kings, 11/2. 10 Courlander, Tales of Yoruba Gods and Heroes, 6. 11 Courlander, Tales of Yoruba Gods and Heroes, 10. 12 Courlander, Tales of Yoruba Gods and Heroes, 28.
14 focus on the medicinal techniques of gelede, egungun, and l. In 1985, Anthony D. Buckley published the book Yorb Medicine in which he considers herbal healing in Nigeria, stressing the importance of secrecy in healing processes. 13 The same is true o f many aspects of Nigerian ceremonial healing and for individual objects associated with healing. Although secrecy is important in Nigerian healing, objects such as l and ceremonies such as Gelede and Egngn derive the power to heal through their visu al performance for the community, which bolsters the efficacy of Yorb ceremonies and objects. For my analysis, I rely primarily on three publications, one per ceremony and Egngn Among the Oyo Yoruba (1980) to examine Egngn ceremonies from a Yorb point of view. Babatunde Lawal provides detailed insight into the Gelede performance in his book The Gelede Spectacle: Art Gender and Social Harmony in Yorb Culture (1996). For the third and final case study I used Davi Vigilant Things: On Thieves, Yoruba Anti Aesthetics, and the Strange Fates of Ordinary Objects in Nigeria (2011) to explore l. Unless otherwise noted, all information is from these sources. Egngn Egngn is important in all Yoruba communities because of Yoruba beliefs in reincarnation and life after death. During Egngn ceremonies which are used to honor and appease ancestors, ancestral spirits manifest in the ceremonies as the Egngn masqueraders. Th e Egngn masqueraders are the representatives of ancestors on 13 Anthony D. Buckley, Yorb Medicine (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985)
15 earth and so they are highly regarded in public and are believed to be able to solve the they solve problems such as sickness, poverty, infertility, and poor harvests. 14 During the ceremonies which take place at least annually, more often if the need arises masqueraders wear a variety of costumes. The colors of these costumes are chosen because they are the pr eferred colors of the ancestors, whom they aim to please with the ceremony. The clothing is meant to draw the community near to the ancestors by commemorating them. One Yoruba who was interviewed about Egungun le emblems of the ancestors on earth, they clothed by their costumes when they appear in public. 15 engag ement. They vary in purpose and style, some performed by single families calling on their ancestors and others involving the whole community at funerals or annual Egngn ceremonies. Diviners decide on the performance date and announce it publicly. Alth ough the ceremonies honor the deceased ancestors, the masks do not depict the deceased or the living, but rather the entire lineage. Egngn performances can travel all through a town, becoming visually available to many members of the community. Masquer aders often imitate women by wearing costumes that exaggerate female qualities such as large hips and bosoms. They also adorn themselves with 14 Journal of B lack Studies 22.1. (1991): 6 10. 15 14.
16 elaborately plaited hair, gold jewelry and purses in order to acknowledge the potentially dangerous aje and to ca pture and use her power 16 Egngn serves as a form of theatre during which the dancers depict problems in order to enact its message. As with other Yorb ceremonies such as agemo and jugbo, men and women cross dress during Egngn performances. Like the aforementioned men who dressed in costumes padded on the hips and breasts to look like women, women also perform as men, although far less frequently. 17 Margaret Thompson Drewal recalls a ceremony that she witnessed in 1968 in which a woman emerged from the crowd and joined the ceremony dancing like a man with full, forceful motions and rapid spinning. As soon as she began, a man quickly 18 This illuminates the visual importance of ceremonial healing. When the men and women represent each other, the community believes them to be the gender that they outwardly represent. The woman who danced as a man, moved as a man, and was dressed as a m an, therefore was a man. The man dressed as a woman was therefore able to generate a qualities, that identify them. 16 Margaret Thompson Drewal, Yoruba Ritual: Performers, Play, Agency (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992). 17 Margaret Thompson Drewal, Yoruba Ritual 18 Margaret Thompson Dre wal, Yoruba Ritual
17 Gelede Yoruba but Ge lede, unlike Egngn, is only performed in western Yoruba land from Sabe in the north, down the coast bordered on the west by Ohori and east by Egbado. 19 Gelede varies widely in different communities but in each the ceremony is associated with a deified fo unding foremother. The fundamental purpose of these ceremonies is to pay tribute to female mythical powers and therefore derive their benefits. The ceremony celebrates powerful women such as elders, ancestors, and deities and together, these women are re ferred to as orisa egbe. The term egbe refers to the Yoruba community as a whole and specifically the secret society of powerful women elders who can transform into birds at night and hold meetings. They are mortals who have access to the world of the li ving and the world of the dead. These women can be destructive but community members do not call them them. 20 One participant described the ceremony: The gods of Gelede are so called the great ancestral mothers. The power of The Great Mother is manifold. The ancestors, when they had a if it is found that Gelede should be done to bring about rain or the birth of children, it should be done and it will be so. The Great Mother has power you. 21 19 The ceremony also spread to Sierra Leone, Cuba, Brazil. 20 Henry J. Drewal and Margaret Thompson Drewal, Gelede: Art and Female Power among the Yoruba (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1983), 7 8. 21 Drewal and Drewal, Gelede: Art and Female Power 8.
18 This quote im plies that the mothers understand the secrets of the world and posses the evident to Yoruba people by their longevity of life, often outliving men. Because they are so knowledgeable, herbalists must seek their support when they made medicines. he sky, and if he climbs up to remove a leaf, she will move the leaf to the ground. 22 Their power is equal or superior to the orisa, whom some believe the mothers control. One way that an aje, or witch, receives that which she requests from community mem through that orisa. If something is offered to that orisa, the mother takes it for herself and will be appeased. If there is an epidemic, the community members offer sacrifices to th e orisa so that they will relieve suffering. Because the mothers are the owners of these gods, they know that the community is also begging for their assistance as well and will be satisfied and help end the epidemic. 23 An example of a powerful female or isa is Nana Bukuu (or Nana Buruku), who is was a fearless warrior and aided kings in battle. She represents the courage and accomplishments of all living women and she, like the ancestors, posses secrets about life. She and her son, Sapona, share the symbol of a staff made of palm fronds. Her 22 Drewal and Drewal, Gelede: Art and Female Power 8 10 23 Drewal and Drewal, Gelede: Art and Female Power 9 11.
19 primary icon is the ileeshin which is a term originating in Ketu. The ileeshin is a staff shaped object made from the same mate rial of as the broom that represents her son, but it is entirely covered in camwood paste and wound in leather strips which can be ase or s pirit. On earth, only women can hold the ileeshin and can use it to harm cruel people in her presence. 24 The Yorb of Southwest Nigeria who adhere to indigenous religion perform Gelede masquerades [Fig. 2 1 ] in order to assuage women and female ancestors by appearing in front of the community. 25 During this ceremony, women, some of whom possess strong and potentially destructive powers, are praised for holding powerful secrets and providing life to the entire community. An effective performance must enga ge and please these women, therefore participants spend days without sleep and exert maximum energy to publically demonstrate their devotion and gratitude. 26 The visually striking ceremony takes place in two parts: the Efe performance held at night and th from punishment, precedes him, enticing the eager crowd with his witty and often inappropriate comments and excited gestures. Viewer energy peaks with the appearance of the Efe mask, who immediately entrances the crowd with his undulating calls and swirling arms. His movements articulate masculine power derived from the 24 Robert Farris Thompson, Flash of the Spirit, New York: Random House, Inc., 1983, 68 72. 25 Drewal and Drewal, Gelede : Art and Female Power, xv. 26 Drewal and Drewal. Gelede: Art and Female Power Among the Yoruba, ?.
20 crowd sings and dances. 27 The fo llowing day performers show their power through the display of Gelede masks and costumes. The dancers perform maleness and femaleness through their ured around their waists [Fig. 2 2 ]. They execute fast sha rp motions with their arms and legs, and appear masculine because of their large size as the fabric fl ares out when they swirl [Fig. 2 3 ]. However, the costume is made possible by female participation. In this way, the dancer simultaneously demonstrates physical strength through his maleness and honors female roles. Knives, guns and caps symbolize the males. Bowls, head wraps, trays and b irds symbolize the women [Fig. 2 4 ] Aje embody birds to travel to secret meetings at night. It is this duality between night and day, male and female that the community must witness in order to draw power from the other worlds and honor the women in their own world. In order to comprehen d the intended effects of the Yorb Gelede performance one must more fully understand aje, Witches are a pan African source of social tension and are often blamed for inexplicable diseases, epidemics, and sudden deaths. 28 The Yoruba claim that aje have an unstable and ambiguous nature, characteristics generally represent women in their role as loving and protective mothers. More often though witches are associated with the ajogun or warriors against 27 Drewal and Drewal. Gelede: Art and Female Power, ?. 28 Babatunde Lawal, The Gelede Spectacle: Art, Gender, and Social Harmony in an African Culture (Seattle : University of Washington Press, 1996), xv.
21 humanity, which the Yor uba sometimes consider to be more powerful than orisa th e pantheon of Yoruba deities. Because of their potentially fatal power, Yoruba men and women avoid looking at a suspected aje in the eye or even saying the word. Instead, they refer to her in eup hemisms such as awon iya wa (our mother). When the aje is provoked, the community relies on the power of the punitive Egngn society to subdue her. 29 The social behavior of the Mothers with love and praise 30 devastation, we are able to categorize the ceremony as medicine. Babatunde Lawal links the ceremony to health. In his introduction, he explains Gelede rituals as they relate to art and Yoruba belief systems. He links art and healing in Yorubaland by claiming that the role of art is to promote spiritual wellness and social harmony within the community. 31 The health of the individual is therefore linked to the harmony of the en tire community. The author elaborates on this observation in a section of his book performed to non aggressively promote social harmony. 32 Gelede works to protect the soci ety from the destruction. The society forms a community identity while 29 Lawal, The Gelede Spectacle 31 33. 30 Drewal and Drewal. Gelede: Art and Female Power, xv. 31 Lawal, The Gelede Spectacle xvii. 32 Lawal, The Gelede Spectacle, 79.
22 illustrating the necessity of fellowship and community to human survival. In this way, Gelede serves as a medicine used to heal the entire community. 33 The Yoruba proverb, 34 The word iron or spectacle, has numerous implications. Most broadly, it refers to a transitory phenomenon one t hat always exists in the world of the ancestors but is only visible to and affects humans when performed in Gelede ceremonies, illustrating the masquerade as a display for the god s, ancestors, or Mothers. 35 Because the performance is for the Mothers, it derives its effectiveness from its visual availability to the community, specifically to the Mothers. According to Lawal, the Gelede society employs aesthetics to neutralize evil and stimulate warm affection at the same time. Individual ceremonies, performed by families experiencing difficult health or economic troubles, gain efficacy based on their level of elaboration. If the Mothers witness an intricate ceremony, they are mor e likely which are more common, also rely on intricate displays to ancestors and Mothers in a re held to give thanks to Iya Nla, and they rely on the participation of all community members to appease her. 36 33 Lawal, The Gelede Spectacle, 97. 34 Drewal and Drewal. Gelede: Art and Female Power, 1. 35 Drewal and Drewal. Gelede: Art and Female Power, 1. 36 Lawal, The Gelede Spectacle 93 95.
23 Occasionally the lines are blurred between medicinal power and visual power. For example, the Efe mask, performed the first night of the Gelede festival, incorporates a carved blade motif. Some believe the blade is an aesthetic elaboration, but according to Henry and Margaret Drewal it is a medicinal camwood blade. Gelede performers have identified the blades as miniature bull roarers. These mu ltiple interpretations 37 social well being. 38 Gelede, serving as ceremonial healing, protects societies from the potential ly fatal effects of aje, women who transform into cats or birds at night and l Medicinal power can be manifested in a variety of visual forms. In her article anthropomorphic images in Yorb healing, which can be produced from wood, bone, ivory, or molded from clay. These figures vary visually based on their particular ethnic style and evok e emotions from the person using them. Medicinal figures are produced and viewed as art but also serve as practical medicine in Yorubaland. According to Wolff, African sculpture serves two purposes, power and display. Displayed objects, which have vario us symbolic meanings, are made visible to the public in a religious or 37 Drewal and Drewal, Gelede: Art and Female Power xix. 38 Lawal, The Gelede Spectacle xv xvii.
24 strength. Conversely, power sculpture is created to garner the support of supernatural beings to aid in the social health of a community. 39 The author argues that medicinal figures always serve as power objects, kept out of view of the public. Created and activated during ritual practice, these figures are usually hidden and sometimes even destr oyed after use. Yorb healers make use of all materials in the natural world for their sources of power drawing on the powerful the snail or tortoise. Human figur es, however, are more than symbolic, they actually medicine figure is an act of embodiment with the intention of concentrating powers of 40 Heale rs must empower these anthropomorphic medicinal figures by adding supplementary medicinal substances like leaves, or by calling them to action with an incantation. 41 Medicinal figures appear infrequently in scholarship for a number of reasons. First, the y lack the refinement of other Yorb carvings such as ere ibeji or twin figures, and various types of masks. The ere are designed and delicately executed for display on altars and are more refined because they are meant to prove the devotion and admirat ion for the orisa. Medicinal objects, not intended for public view, are usually not carved by artists and tend to be crudely executed. For this reason, they are not often collected by foreign tourists or collectors. If they are collected, they may not b e 39 205 207. 40 41 208.
25 correctly identified in museum collections. More simply, researchers know little about them and do not often see them in the field because they are private objects, not meant for public display. 42 Aworan is the most common example of a medicinal figure used in Yorbland. These are small human shaped wooden figures used as ingredients in various Yorb medicines. They can represent a male or female and are carved in a recognizable Yorb style. Aworan are depicted with over sized heads, eyes, and mou ths. Their arms are carved by their sides and they have shortened legs with large feet. Both male a female figures are represented nude. The females have exaggerated breasts and braided hair and the males have exaggerated genitals and a bald head. 43 Medical practitioners use aworan in oogun ika or evil medicine, and in oogun, medicine used for healing purposes. Aworan used in oogun ika can cause a victim to fall ill or to have back luck. Used for good, aworan can protect the user, bring him or her a partner, improve fertility, fight witchcraft, heal the sick, and prevent thieves from stealing. These figures can be made by the person in need but are often commissioned from a professional wood carver, who determines how refined the aworan will look b ased on the amount of money he is paid. Any aworan, regardless of its quality can be a person to prevent them from moving until the cord is released. One form of awo ran is the aworan ibeji which is often mistaken for ere ibeji or twin figure but differs in that the aworan ibeji is only powerful when the carver applies medicine to it. This oogun, or 42 210. 43 21 3.
26 medicine can be applied directly to the body of the figure or to inc ised patterns on the bottom of the figure. 44 Other types of Yorb medicine manifested in visual form is entirely non representational like l, objects used to prevent thieves from entering the house or stealing property outside. David Doris begins his book Vigilant Things with a personal story about his encounter with l in a town called Modakeke in Nigeria. Passing a pile of green word, he saw a black plastic bag, filled with an unknown substance, ti ed to a protruding stick [Fig. 2 5 ]. He asked it s creator why he placed the object in his bundle of wood and learned that the object was, as he suspected, l. The man would not tell him whether or not the object contained oogun or medicine, claiming that either way, the l would prove effective. 45 l are made of virtually any material, although some media are more common than others, such as brooms and palm fronds. They are used to prevent thieves from stealing. An l can be as simple as two palm fronds joined with string. The viewer needs only to see that the materials have been manipulated for the l to be effective. The creator may use them inside the home or outside on farms to protect their crops from thieves or as Doris notes, on any property that a person is not able to supervise l can be split into two main categories: l ami and l oogun The latter contains medicinal herbs and oils which literally impregnate the object with ase or power. l being seen. 46 44 213. 45 David Doris, Vigilant Things, (Seattle, University of Washington Press, 2011), 3 5. 46 Doris, Vigilant Things 16.
2 7 Those who employ l do so to protect themselves and their property, creating social harmony. Ridding the community of thieves serves as a metaphor for ridding the body of illness, making l a metaphorical type of social medicine, used w ith great frequency during the political turmoil in Nigeria in the 1990s. 47 After the death of General Sani Abacha in 1998, who was a despot, murderer, and thief, the Nigerian people hoped for economic improvement and a decline in crime, but the changes ne ver came. Cri me increased with the death of MKO Abil, the popular winner of the annulled 1993 democratic election. During these dark years, crime skyrocketed and in an attempt to heal their deeply wounded society, and with little available governmental help, Yorb men and women increased their use of l. 48 The man who Doris encountered in Modakeke, F. F. Afolabi, was confident in the efficacy of his l m, because like the Gelede masquerade, its power was in its visual relationship with the potent ial thief, not in the literal medicine that may or may not have been inside. Therefore, what the l contained was irrelevant to Mr. Afolabi. The punitive effects of the l are set in motion as soon as the would be thief encounters it. 49 l are effec tive because the would be thief recognizes the object and understands that he or she will reap the consequences represented by that object. For instance, if the owner of a field hangs an old shoe from a tree at the entrance of his property, the potential criminal will know that if he steals he will suffer like a used shoe. Likewise, he may suffer as sk gbdo or maize cob, picked at and emaciated, or he 47 Doris, Vigilant Things ?. 48 Doris, Vigilant Things 8 9. 49 Doris, Vigilant Things 16.
28 may suffer as an old spoon that for centuries has been used in fires and boiling liquids 50 Babalwo Ifrwl "gndran provides a list of common motifs and their meanings such as the red flag that should be used outside of the house to protect farm products. If the potential thief ignores this l, smallpox will kill him or her. If the thief sees a s tone hung from a load of wood, the would be thief knows that they will live a hard life with much burden if they steal the wood. Rags threaten a generally bad life with affliction and untimely death, and the midrib of the oil palm, owa ope, placed on prop erty such as a pile of wood promises epilepsy. A person who steals in the presence of a hanging snail shell, will become very sick and sell all of their property for medicine that will prove ineffective. Later, the perpetrator will die of hypertension. 51 The colors used in l also provide visual messages for the potential thief. Of the three colors generally found in l -red, white, and black -red has the strongest negative associations. Red, dangerous and unambiguous, is the very image of suffer ing and debilitation. Red l tend to have the most serious effects. Because red is concealed within the healthy human body and deep in the earth during the fertile season, redness is associated with infertility and illness. Likewise, when red is displ ayed on l it is a sign that danger is present. 52 Used less often in l, black bears many meaning ranging from appreciation to 53 According to Babalwo Iftgn, an l that he made by attaching black cloth, black feathers, and black thread to a corncob was used to protect 50 Doris, Vigilant Things, 240. 51 Doris, Vigilant Things 241 2. 52 Doris, Vigilant Things 198 201. 53 Doris, Vigilant Things ?.
29 harvested crops against thieves. The black feather protects the crops the way a chicken protects its chicks with its feathers. The black cloth held to the corn cob with black thread tells all who encounter i t that if they steal from the granary, their lives will be enveloped in darkness and they will lose their way. White l promotes transparency, allowing the creator to see the transgressor in the day and night. Creators employ white in l in the form of cloth, feathers, thread snail shells, cowries, beads, chalk, and water. White is the cooling color of water and chalk, complimenting and cooling the hot redness of blood and disease. For this reason, the creator of white l can also use them to he al a thief who has been punished. 54 Because the members of a community understand these visual motifs, the l are effective. l also creates a shared identity for the community through the common knowledge of these visual motifs. The Yorb use l a s medicine to rid the community potential thieves, especially during times of political unrest. The visual impact of the l on the passerby deters them from committing malicious acts. Creators of l, like the one Doris encountered on his return trip to Modakeke, know that leaving oogun or medicine out of the medicinal object will not reduce its efficacy. Gelede, Egngn, and l, three Yorb methods that encourage community health, gain efficacy through their visual engagement with the community. Each of these healing techniques illustrates an important aspect of Yorb culture: ancestors, assertion that privacy and secrecy are integral to Yorb medicine, but rath er to prove 54 Doris, Vigilant Things 203 6.
30 that the visual characteristics are also necessary in creating an effective means of healing.
31 Figure 2 1 Gelede masquerade Photo credit: Henry and Margaret Drewal
32 Figure 2 2 Gelede, Photo cred it: Henry and Margaret Drewal
33 Figure 2 3 A Gelede dancer wearing a hoop around his chest with head ties Photo Credit: Henry and Margaret Drewal
34 Figure 2 4 Spirit bird Photo Credit: Henry and Margaret Drewal
35 Figure 2 5 Mr. F.F. Afolabi and his l Photo Credit: David T. Doris
36 CHAPTER 3 AN EXAMINATION OF A YORB SAPONA FIGURE Over fifty members of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), and multiple researchers pres ent in Nigeria in the late 1960 s, own Sapona figures much like the one in the collection of the Harn Museum of Art [Fig 3 1 ]. The wooden figure representing the orisa of smallpox is approximately twelve inches tall and made of a dark wood that seems to be stained a coal color. Its body is adorned with four strands of cowry shells, a monkey skull is attached to its core with cords, and a kola nut is attached to each shoulder. The figure holds a wooden club in each hand. From the left side of its body hangs a net containing a conglomerate of shells and feathers. It s back is covered with burlap and a strand of red, white, and green beads of varying size and shape drapes over the fabric. In addition, a metal chain hangs from the back of the right side of his head and continues to the front of his body. At the end of the chain hangs a conical metal bell that rests next to an orange gourd on a slightly raised base. An additional strand of cowrie shells adorns his neck. Its face bears three lines which are carved almost vertically into each cheek. Two patches of rough m headdress and down to the top of his right ear. A set of small white and tan beads wrap loosely headdress, hands, clubs, and part of the monkey skull, is spotted with blue and white pigment. Bob Boyde purchased this figure in 1969 while he was stationed in Lagos, Nigeria with the CDC during the Global Smallpox Eradication Campaign. In an
37 interview, Boyde told me that a Nigerian trader brought the piece from northeast o f Lagos, south of Kaduna [Fig. 3 2 ], to sell to the Americans working with the smallpox program. Accor ding to Boyde, that same trader made regular trips from his Yoruba city in the north, where he gathered items he knew were in demand and that he could easily sell, and returned to Lagos to make a profit. The members of the CDC who owned these figures thou ght that the traders stole or provided very little monetary compensation to Sapona priests for the objects. They were under the impression that those relinquishing the figures did so because they so desperately needed the money as crippled during the smallpox epidemic. Boyde also assured me, however, that he objects previously used in a ritual. 1 By researching this figure, I hoped first to confirm its identity as Sapona, the orisa of smallpox, and to determine where the figure was created and by which cu ltural group. These initial facts were quickly elucidated by speaking with Boyde, who became familiar the country and spent over half of his time in Nigeria in very small villages. Subsequently, I hoped to discover whether Sapona figures, like the one in the Harn collection, were used in any ritual activities or if they were solely created for the tourist trade to support the local economy. 1 Boyde, Bob. Interview by author. Telephone. November 30, 2011.
38 In my research, questions arise of authenticity, a contested subject in Erik Cohen criticizes the search for the authentic as a concept totally based on perceptions of the tourist. He explain foreign region, he does so in search of the primitive, pristine, and natural, which he is Cohen calls them, consider authentic or real. Authenticity becomes a product of pre 2 In this chapter I explain why I believe is important to n Little informa tion exists about Sapona in the literature on Yorb religion. This dearth of attention may reflect Yorb attitudes Yorb people in Nigeria rarely speak his name to make sure they do not bring his attention to their home. In following pages I will cons ider formal analyses and iconography in an attempt to determine the use of Sapona was introduced into the Yorb religious pantheon in Nigeria by the 17 th century, probably from the Nupa and Tapa people in the north of the country. 3 Some 2 371 376 3 Donald R. Hopkins, The Greatest Killer: Smallpox in History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983), 200.
39 trace the deity to the Hausa people, also in the north, and ultimately to Islam. 4 In an early Yoruba folktale, the orisa gathered for a harvesting festival where they ate game, crops from their fields, and drank palm wine. They all dined, but when they rose to dance, Sapona stayed behind because he had a wooden leg and used a stick to walk. Soon, one of the deities noticed that Sapona was not participating and, offended, urged the god to join the other s. Sapona, who had consumed much palm wine during their absence, covered the wooden leg he was so ashamed of and stumbled into the crowd. When someone bumped into him, causing him to fall, his leg was exposed and the other orisa erupted into laughter and began to tease. Sapona was so offended that he beat the other orisa on the back with his walking stick and when they returned home they all felt ill, their eyes became sore, and their bodies erupted with sores. The orisa of smallpox had infected them wit h his secret disease. When Obatala, father of the gods, actions but Sapona saw him coming and absconded into the forest where he was supposed to stay, though he emerges at in tervals to proliferate his disease. 5 From then on Sapona was feared by the other gods and later by humans. Polls show that during the time of the global eradication program in the 1960s, over 90% of Nigerians, especially those in small towns, did not un derstand smallpox as vengeance was supposed to be accepted with gratitude and even celebrated to prevent 4 Robert W. Morgan, The Sopono Cult and Smallpox Vaccination in Lagos (Boston: African Studies Center Boston University, 1979), 2. 5 Courlander, Tales of Yoruba Gods and Heroes, 40 42.
40 further scourge from the god. 6 While many Nigerians did not seem to un derstand the physiological nature of smallpox, they did understand the communicability of the disease. Nigerians knew that smallpox occurred more often during the dry season. They attributed this to the god dwelling in the forests during the wet season a nd coming to the towns in the dry season to prowl in the sun under certain trees. These trees and locations were therefore avoided during that time of year. 7 Because Sapona is easily offended, people often refuse to use his name and speak about him indir ectly through the names Omolu or Obaoluaye to avoid attracting his attention. Sapona is angered by various actions including the burning of corncobs and palm kernel oil and by sweeping the house with a type of broom that is often used to represent him. He is attracted to music, dancing, and whistling but driven away by cigarette and pipe smoke. If a person contracted smallpox from any of these offenses, there was a possibility of recovery. However, contracting the disease as a result of offending a Sapona priest, priestess, or devotee, was believed to the fatal. 8 Some scholarship paints a portrait of manipulative Sapona priests capitalizing on the fear of smallpox. Priests probably performed Variolation which is the process of infecting oneself with smallp ox (Variola) in a controlled manner to minimize the effects of the disease and provide subsequent immunization. For this reason, the priests community. They promised member s of the community that for gifts and monetary compensation, they would protect their families from the disease of their patron orisa 6 Morgan, The Sopono Cult 3. 7 Morgan, The Sopono Cult, 5. 8 Morgan, The Sopono Cult, 52.
41 and that if the disease did infect them and was fatal, that they would protect their spirit in the afterlife. Because Sap Europeans believed that they were not motivated to keep the members of their community alive. 9 According to some sources, priests hung the bodies of the deceased from trees to collect the infected fluids that dripped from the smallpox scabs in order to concoct lethal substances to use as punishment. Other accounts tell us that the household if they were unable or unw illing to pay. 10 These stories do not account for the fact that many Yorb understood the fatal disease. When the physician William H. Foege spent a day with a Sapona priest he noted that he was, in fact, extremely knowledgeable about smallpox and able to discuss the epidemiology, seasonality, and age distribution of the disease. Foege also noted that the head priests led a three year residency program for incoming priests, which shows how seriously the position was regarded in Yoruba communities. 11 Whi le we cannot ignore the corruption stories, we should take into consideration their source: Europeans and Americans unfamiliar with Yorb culture. Specifically they were medical experts who may have entered the country with feelings of medical superiorit y to Yorb medical practitioners. It is likely that the Europeans were simply not familiar with the rituals of Sapona devotees and mistook the occurrences for 9 Hopkins, The Greatest Killer 202. 10 Morgan, The Sopono Cult 5. 11 Horace, G. Ogden, CDC and the Smallpox Crusade (Atlanta: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1987).
42 misdeeds. What the Europeans understood as corrupt behavior by some Sapona priests might have reflected their misunderstandings of prejudices Shango, orisa of thunder, and Ogun, orisa of iron. Both of these orisa elicit fear from the community in much the same manner as Sapona. 12 Shango is a harsh and stern leader, sometimes hungry for po wer. Because he has control of thunder bolts, people fear him and are very careful to please him. Like Sapona, he is often called praise names instead of his name, Shango, to demonstrat e respect. 13 Ogun is the orisa of war and lives in the all things made of iron, including bullets. He can exhibit the rage and destructiveness of a warrior. His devotees and other community members are careful not to elicit such responses from the powerf ul deity. 14 Like Sapona, these two orisa are not represented anthropomorphically. If human figures are seen in association with the deities, it is to represent their devotees. Shango is usually represented by the double headed axe to convey strength that cuts in all directions, meaning that nobody can escape his wrath should he be provoked. Images of Shango shrine figures and staff s are readily available [Figs. 3 3 and 3 4 ]. Machetes and swords often represent Ogun. His devotees adorn themselves in his c olors of red and white. It is also easy to find images of ritual objects, like axes used by Ogun devotees [Fig. 3 5 ]. These two orisa, both feared and respected like Sapona, have 12 Colored Cap? Transformations of Es hu in Old and The Journal of American Forklore 100 (1987): 261 175. 13 Courlander, Tales of Yoruba Gods and Heroes 79 82. 14 Courlander, Tales of Yoruba Gods and Heroes 33 37.
43 active shrines and many devotees, which leads me to believe that the same i s true of Sapona, regardless of the lack of many known representations of the orisa. Sapona appears in many parts of the Yorb region. In Benin in the 1970s, at collection, th ose who adhered to Yorb religion built shrines to honor the deity, w hom they call Sakpata [Fig. 3 6 ]. 15 The shrines were placed on the ground and their physical contact with the earth allowed the orisa to more quickly absorb them. 16 They were conical in shape and rose to a narrowed point alluding to the powerful spirit inside. 17 Apaadi, a shard of pottery that people in Benin sometimes use to transport hot coals, 18 made fro m clay pots with pox please and cool the hot god. 19 Some devotees believe that Sakpata began the smallpox epidemic by sweeping grains and seeds which left pox like marks on the people the debris touch ed. For this reason, devotees scattered both at his alter. 20 In Nigeria, there are four documented genres of representations in Nigeria and almost no images to support these descriptions. 21 One abstract depiction of the deity is the laterite stone that has pitted surfaces alluding to the scars left from smallpox. 15 Robert F Thompson, Face of the Gods: Art and Alters of Africa and the African Americas. (New York: Museum for African Art, 1993) 218. 16 Thompson, Face of the Gods 146. 17 Thompson, Face of the Gods 218. 18 Thompson, Face of the Gods 218. 19 Thompson, Face of the Gods 146, 2 18. 20 Thompson, Face of the Gods 222. 21 Hopkins, The Greatest Killer 201.
44 Another is the broom made of bamboo palm branches smeared with cam wood u sed to depict the orisa [Fig. 3 7 ]. Another image of Sapona is a five foot tall clay figure with cowry shells embedded in t he body to represent the pox. 22 The fourth representation account of a Sapona shrine, which was mentioned by the wife of a CDC physician. She briefly mentions seeing a gin and vodka. 23 Today in Nigeria, devotees paint half of their body in black pigment with white spots and the other half white with black spots, possibly referencing the symptoms of smallpox orisa. With the eradication of smallpox, Sapona is now associated with HIV/AIDS. 24 Smallpox deities play a role in religious practices in other parts of the world. In India a nd China, shrines were erected for their gods and devoted worshipers regularly attended. Represented as a woman on a donkey, cross legged, carrying a broom and urn, Shitala mata is the Hindu goddess of smallpox who is the cause for and the relief from the disease. She evolved from minor to major deity in the 18 th century and like Sapona, she is worshiped with a mix of apprehension and reverence. People regularly 22 Hopkins, The Greatest Killer 201. 23 Henderson, Ilze. Interview with Alicia Decker, July 13, 2006. http://globalhealthchronicles.org/smallpox/record/view/pid/emory:158jd 24 Tobie Nathan, Anne Stamm and Piere Saulnier, African Gods: Contemporary Rituals and Beliefs, trans., Susan Picford, ( Paris: Flamarion, 2007).
45 attend temples devoted to her worship throughout India. Devotees prayed for her to stay out of their homes or to come gently if she must. 25 th century and was a major deity by the 19 th century. She was feared more than she was loved, much like Sapona When a member of the community was infected, a family offering. Shrines were also erected for her in the homes of those with the disease. If the person lived, the shrine was bu rned. Despite the proliferation of shrines dedicated to goddess, one of which is a mere sketch. 26 A formal comparison between the Sapona figure in the Harn Museum and two figures presented to the CDC in 1969, the same year Boyde purchased his figure, indicate formal consistency and also may indicate that these figures were made for sale and not for ritual pu rpose [Figs. 3 8a and 3 8b ]. Each of the elements of the Harn Museu CDC figures have the same body, base, and head shape as the Harn figure with a thick trunk, small base, and pinched conical headdress atop a similarly proportioned head. The ob jects attached to the two CDC figures are almost identical to those that appear on the Harn figure. Three strands of cowry shells hang from the top of the torso of one of the CDC figures and monkey skulls spotted with pigment rests in the center of both o f sections. A kola nut is nailed to each shoulder, precisely like the Harn 25 David A. Koplow, Smallpox: The Fight to Eliminate a Global Scourge (California: University of California Press, 2003), 159. 26 Hopkins, The Greatest Killer 136.
46 right ear to the bottom of its torso. A gourd hangs at the bottom of both CDC figures. Resting on the base of one is a conical metal bell, and a strand of large multi colored beads, similar in shape and size to those hanging from the back of the Harn fi gure, falls from its back. An additional strand of cowrie shells is wrapped around the necks of both CDC figures. The faces of all three Sapona figures bear an identical facial expression. Both of the CDC figures have deeply carved, downturned eyes, and roughly carved mouths. They also both have the same three vertical indentations in their cheeks. The same patch of material appears on the fro shells line the top of all three headdresses. The figures differ in the pigments that adorn them. While the main pigment on CDC figures vary between a light red and a deep blue base pigment with red white, and blue spots. Also, a thin, light brown fiber cascades from the back of the CDC the result of two factors. First, the difference in colors could simply be for variation. If figures for gifts for the CDC and World Health Association employees, they might have
47 incorporated slight differences, if only to please the recipi ents. 27 The fiber added to these Sapona figures could demonstrate extra effort on behalf of the creator. The CDC figures were, after all, made as commemorative gifts. very similar It is unlikely that artists from two different cities would produce objects with such similar details. Other aspects of Sapona practice are very localized, so we can of different Yoruba towns, and even different individuals, have very different religious dogma. There are disagreements between towns on topics as broad as the gender affil iation of certain gods. 28 The organization of worshipers of Sapona also varies widely. Only one group of devotees exists in Ibadan, just northeast of Lagos, and they hold one annual festival. In Okuku, on the southeast coast of the country, however, there are seventeen distinct groups of devotees. Each group recognizes a certain personality trait of Sapona. 29 The Sapona images in question here, however, are so similar that they were likely created by the same artist or group of artists. Since religious de votees practice such individualized forms of the Yoruba religion and often have different understandings of their orisa, they would produce localized images of Sapona for worship. I therefore 27 http://phil.cdc.gov/phil/d etails.asp 28 Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, 55 (1985): 187 200. 29 Koplow, Smallpox: The Fight to Eliminate a Global Scourge 159.
48 was produced as one of a group. A survey of Yorb style and aesthetics further suggests production for a new foreign market. In Black Gods and Kings, Thompson lists the criteria for a sculpture to 30 The first standard is jijora or relative mimesis, which does not mean an exact physical likeness to the subject, rather that the sculpture s are not too real, meaning the artist does not depict old age or warts, but is also not too abstract. The second criterion is relative visibility or ifarahon Thompson breaks this concept down further i nto visibility of mass and visibility of line. When the artist blocks out the wood and begins to shape a figure, he is focusing on the visibility of the mass. According to Yorb aesthetic, it is important for the artist to create a upright (not crooked) smooth, and precise forms. A polished surface allows the artist to achieve visibility of line. These lines, or more intricate details, should appear delicate and not too conspicuous. 31 Facial features such as eyes and scarification should be symmetrica l. Successful features are evidence of a skilled and dexterous Yorb artist. 32 ephebism from the Greek ephebos the ancient term for youth eighteen to twenty years old. Sculptors should give t heir works young features like strong cheeks, and muscular, 30 Robert Farris Tho mpson, Black Gods and Kings: Yoruba Art and UCLA (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1976) 3/1 3/2. 31 Thompson, Black Gods and Kings, 3/1 3/2. 32 Rozaq Olatunde Rom Kalilu, ed, Powers of Expression and Expression of Power in Yoruba Art (Lagos: Bisdol and Associates, 1995) 28.
49 firm chins. The objects should exhibit strong and upright shoulders and a firm chest and stomach. 33 anthropomorphic carvings. In hi s first comparison he compares F igures 3 9 a and 3 9 b claiming that F igure 3 9 a is the more impressive sculpture. The ar tist responsible for F igure 3 9 a provides his figure with a more detailed head and chest therefore paying closer attention to th e detail of m ass than the artist of F igur e 3 9 b The first sculpture forms symmetrical triangles with the negative space between the arms and the body. The eyes on the lesser sculpture are different positions and are different siz es He also compares F i gures 3 9 c and 3 9 d the former proving superior. Abogunde o f Ede, the artist of F igure 3 9 c created a smooth and balanced figure with muscular arms and delicate sm all facial details. Figure 3 9 d conversely exhibits harsh, sharply carved facial fineness creates an unintentional grimace. 34 By carefully studying the visual qualities of the figure in the Harn M useum and these three objects according to the Yorb standards that Thompson e numerated, seem to indicate that they were carved crudely because they were not intended for ritual purpose, or because they were used in medicinal ceremonies like the aworan described in C hapter 1, and therefore not meant for public consumption. The figu re at the Harn 33 Thompson, Black Gods and Kings, 3/3. 34 Thompson, Black Gods and Kings, 3/4.
50 Museum is especially unbalanced, in form and detail. The object leans sharply to the left and the ears are of different shapes. The left side of the mouth turns down, giving carved harshly and lack the delicacy of a dexterous hand. It is likely that the carvers of each of these three Sapona figures, made them specifically for sale, not ritual. f or the tourist trade or as aworan was to determine whether or not the attached objects were too expensive and rare to use on an object not meant for ritual use. The two objects I was most concerned with were the cowry shells and the kola nuts, because cow ries served as currency for centuries and that kola nuts are used in countless ritual ceremonies. The other attached objects may also be relevant to Yorb beliefs. The conical bell may refer to Osanyin, the Yorb orisa of healing and medicine. 35 The m o that appears on the Sapona figure could refer to Egngn, one of the healing ceremonies discussed in the Chapter 2 because similar skulls are often tied to Egungun costumes. 36 The artists could therefore have been referencing healing in the Sapona figures. Cowry shells were imported and used as currency in West Africa as early as the 17 th century when the slave trade first reached large proportions. 37 Cowry shell importation declined in the 19 th century when the cost of carriage rose more tha n their value. Cowries always worked better in local commerce than between markets for this 35 Thompson, Black Gods and Kings 11/3. 36 37 Jan Hogendorn and Marion Johnson, The Shell Money of the Slave Trade (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 101 102.
51 reason. British silver replaced the shells shortly after 1900 on the coast of Nigeria, but the shells were still occasionally used locally. In southern Nigeria, c owries were still being used into the 1920s with people storing them in abundance since they were no longer imported. By the 1950s, though the stock piles still existed, the shells were only occasionally used as money to buy inexpensive foods like peanuts at local markets. viewing it as a painful relic of a history of trading shells for their people. 38 My purpose in recounting the history of the cowry in West Africa is to demonstrate that the shells may have been cheaply used on the Sapona figures because they were abundant in southern Nigeria and retained very little, if any, monetary value. It is more likely that the shells are a reference to Eshu, the trickster orisa associated with the market and economic matters. Because cowries were used a shell. 39 It is possible that the artists intentionally made the Sapona figures reflect E shu in order to evoke the idea of ritual objects in the minds of Europeans. In his essay in the 1974 exhibition catalogue African Accumulative Sculpture Arnold Ruben states that Americans and Europeans tend to consider a work of art a singular structure b ut African sculptures are often made of an accumulation of objects. Foreign aid workers in the late 1960s and early 1970, the decades that the Sapona figures were collected, could have held similar views of the way African art objects should appear. The Yorb 38 Hogendorn, The Shell Money, 148 154. 39 Elegba, the Yoruba Trickster: Definition and Africa: Journal of the Intern ational African Institute. 32.4 (1962): 346 347.
52 artists may have been aware that the aid workers would be more likely to buy art from them if it fit neatly into their category of African style. 40 Like the figures in question, representations of Eshu often incorporate calabashes, which some Yorb use to contain medicines. Representations of Eshu, like the three Sapona figures, are often shown with clubs to indicate their destruction and vengeful nature. 41 The two deities share personality traits as well. Both are hot or hard gods and both are vai n and for this reason are contrasting colors such as the deep blue and blacks painted onto the bodies of the Sapona figures. 42 These Sapona figures could be based off of representations of Eshu. Oji, or kola nuts, grow on trees commonly found in southern N igeria. Some types of kola nuts have religious value, but other types are grown strictly to eat and is not attached to any religious beliefs. This type of kola nut is traded to the south. 43 Thus, the attached objects, which traditionally held high moneta ry or spiritual value, were not used in ritual ceremonies. This seems to indicate that the figure and those like it could have, in fact, been used strictly for the tourist trade. The incorporation of cowry shells, snail shells, and beads may reflect infl uences from the neighboring Fon people. In Benin and Togo, some Fon create bocio, which 40 Arnold Rubin, African Accumulative Sculpture Pace Editions, Inc. 1974. 41 Elegba, the Yoruba Trickster: Definition and Africa: Journal of the International African Institute. 32.4 (1962): 346 347. 42 43 Benedict N. Oparaugo, Igbo Kola Nut Ritual and The Eucharistic Liturgy Inculturation, (Nigeria: Asumpta Press, 20 04), 1 4.
53 44 Like the Sapona figures, bocio come in the form of assemblages of powerful objects add ed to an anthropomorphic figure or as non figural representations. In the latter instance, bocio can be represented by bells, another object attached to the Sapona figure. 45 One category of bocio is used to prevent illness and appear to have life threatening il lnesses such as elephantiasis. Some also bear spots, which allude to illness and are similar to those found on the Sapona figure in the Harn Museum. 46 It is possible that the Yorb who carved these Sapona figures drew stylistically from the bocio. Buckley mentions owning a similar Sapona figure in his article, which makes three sets of accounts of westerners owning representation of Sapona in the same form as the one at the Harn Museum. 47 It may be that traders ingeniously invented this type of figu re to fill a marketing need. The CDC workers may have wanted a commemorative object to bring home with them, but they most likely did not understand the iconography associated with very abstracted figures such as the laterite stone or the broom figures and could not easily bring home a five foot tall statue. Changes in artistic practices due to political reorganization in Yorb cities serve as further evidence that the Sapona figure at the Harn Museum was created for sale. As Yorb obas, or kings, lost political, social, spiritual, and economic power, there was less need for royal arts. Artists who previously created art court art responded to the 44 Suzanne Preston Blier, African Vodun: Art, Psychology, and Power (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1995) 98. 45 Blier, African Vodun, 115 116. 46 Blier, African Vodun, 128. 47 Africa: Journal of the International African Institute. 55 ( 1985) :187 200.
54 lack of demand by creating a new lucrative art market. In the early 20 th century, this new market manifest ed in illustrations documenting events, most of which demonstrated colonial power. 48 Because 20 th century artists were no longer motivated to create works exclusively for court, they were able to expand their production, and could very well have, by the 19 60s, begun selling the Sapona figures to the new market of CDC workers eager to commemorate their experience in Nigeria. of Must: Continuities and Change in the Adugbologe Woodcar ving Worshop in Abeokuta, Nigeria. She describes the shift from the production of ritual objects to objects created primarily for economic advancement in the Adugbologe kin based workshop. She argues that the changes she observed from 1972 to 1974 in pro duction and product were motivated almost entirely by a new outside market of patrons. Changes in product included the artists depicting new styles of hair and dress and incorporating new iconographic elements because they could now disregard ritual accom modations. In his African Art in Transit Christopher B. Steiner also sites an example of commoditization similar to the story of Sapona figures. In 1987, a coffee table sized book of Baule slingshots was published. 49 In the following years, African art t raders noticed the rise in the demand for the object and set prices higher. Some traders even began to make their own slingshots from branches or broken trade objects. Like the that 48 Powers of Expression and Expression of Power 49 Christopher Steiner, African Art in Transit (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 144 147.
55 it was made without European influence. 50 me to a series of conclusions. I believ e that the figure that Boyde bought in Nigeria in 1969 and donated to the Harn Museum was not used in a ritual manner. Its similarity to other objects purchased the same year and by different groups, in either the same town or even different regions, lead s me to believe that these figures were probably not used in a religious context, although it is possible that they served as aworan the figural egardless of whether an object dates from this century or the last, it is always judged inauthentic by Western evaluations if it has not been used in a 51 collection communicates act ual concepts of Yoruba religion, it may have much to say about the ingenuity of artists and traders in southern Nigeria. I believe this Sapona figure was made for trade purposes but I do not think that devalues the object. In fact, it may indicate that i n an economy crippled by smallpox epidemics, traders in southern Nigeria were able to sustain their livelihood by creating a new market. 50 Steiner, African Art in Transit 115. 51 Steiner, African Art and Transit 101.
56 Figure 3 1 Sapona figure Harn Museum My own photograph
57 Figure 3 2 Map of Nigeria Vidiani.com Figure 3 3 Yorb shrine couple Dallas Museum of Art
58 Figure 3 4 Staff for Shango Dallas Museum of Art
59 Figure 3 5 Ceremonial weapon for the Ogun cult. University of California, San Diego
60 Figure 3 6 Sakpata altar, Benin, Photographed by Robert Farris Thomp son, 1970s
61 Figure 3 7 Beaded broom, Fowler Museum at UCLA
62 A B Figure 3 8 Center for Disease Control Sapona figure Public Health Image Library, A) Red Figure B) Blue Figure DC.gov Photo credit: James Gathany
63 A Figure 3 9 Twin figure A) Exemplar 1, B) Non Exemplar 1, C) Exemplar 2 D) Exemplar 2 Photographed by Robert Farris Thompson
64 B Figure 3 9. Continued
65 C Figure 3 9. Continued
66 D Figure 3 9. Continued
67 CHAPTER 4 A SURVEY OF HEALING IMAGERY IN THE WORKS OF THREE CONTEM PORARY ARTISTS Chan ging gears in Chapter 3 I will explore how contemporary African artists make reference to healing in their work. I believe it is important to consider the ways healing plays a part in contemporary art. I will survey the works of three artists, from Ethiopia, and South Africa, and Mali to demonstrate how they engage with diseases, both physical and social, in their artworks. The works I will discuss in this chapter differ in their aims from the Yoruba wor ks discussed in Chapter 1 which are associated with Egngn ceremonies, Gelede ceremonies, and l for specific ritual purposes. They are each made to serve a specific purpose by aiding in physical or societal health. I believe the Sapona figures from chapter two were created either for the tourist trade or as medicinal objects. In each of these contexts the work was made for specific consumers who physically interacted with the pieces. The artists that I will discuss here all create works of art for museum display and inter national audiences. The artists connect with healing in a range of ways. Gera, originally a actual healer who worked with medicinal plants and healing scrolls, considers himself both an artist and healer, creating work for patients and for the art market Zwelethu Mthethwa of South Africa, who began his studies in medicine before his interests shifted to art, perception of traditional healing methods. Lastly, Malian artist Abd oulaye Konat began his artistic career responding to environmental struggles and soon turned his attention to community ailments such as disease and political conflict, as viewed through a social lens. He currently creates large scale textiles that incorp orate grisgris West African healing amulets.
68 Gera Ethiopian artist and healer Gera, who once used medicinal plants to heal his patients, now uses his art as medicine. 1 He began his studies by memorizing basic liturgical texts of the Ethiopian church and then music, and later poetry and history. After his studies, he became a professor at a religious school in Ethiopia, simultaneously teaching himself about medicinal plants. He remembers a monk glancing at one of the copies he had written and telling hi m that to write a prayer without drawing the accompanying talisman was pointless. This is something Gera only understood later when he began creating intricate talismans. Finally, Gera became a dabtara or priest figure. 2 Gera first considered an art istic career in the 1970s, when Jacques Mercier collected many of his talismans and brought them to Europe to display them as art. He and another well known Ethiopian healer, Gedewon, began declaring themselves artists as well as doctors. 3 By allowing hi s work to be displayed as art and producing talismans for galleries and museums, Gera, like Abdoulaye Konat, has brought his form of healing into the contemporary art world. 4 Fitting neatly into the category of art with their extraordinarily intricate a nd vivid colors, Ethiopian talismans often take the form of scrolls, used to heal and protect the patients who carry them for protection against physical and spiritual afflictions. 5 These 1 2 Jacques Mercier, Art that Heals: the Images as Medicine in Ethiopia (New York: Museum for African Art, 1997), 41 2. 3 4 5 London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. London, England.
69 talismans, once purely abstract in design, now include figural repr esentations. Talismans exist for a variety of purposes, from preventing nightmares to assuring a safe childbirth. Ethiopian women sometimes carry their scrolls with them when menstruating to protect them from excessive bleeding and from demons searching for blood. 6 In the province of Tigray, invalids hang them by their beds so that they can read them the entire time they are ill. 7 When they recover, patients put their scrolls away. In Wello, the patient puts the scroll containing the talisman in its c ase and under their pillow or under the affected body part until it heals. Some bury their scrolls on the last night of the year to preserve its effectiveness. 8 Talismanic images are patient and disease specific, though they can contain more general prayers protecting the wearer from headache, fever, pain in the side or stomach, rheumatism of the hands and of the feet, and malaria. 9 Historically, a cleric determined which prayers and images to produce on the scroll. Today, most clerics choose based name of the patient on the talisman. 10 It is important to note that talismans specifically serve healing purposes. Figurative images included in the talismans are based on legends, but the talisman 6 Mercier, Art that Heals 46. 7 Merci er, Art that Heals 46 8 Mercier, Art that Heals 46. 9 London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. London, England. 10 Mercier, Art that Heals, 46.
70 itself, is not. 11 Mercer identifies one medicinal scroll from the 18 th century [Fig. 4 1] with a typically intricate talismanic figure encompassing two eyes that stare out from the center. 12 13 We do not know who the scroll was for or for what type of disease it was intended to heal, but it does confirm that these images are used as literal medicine. [Fig. 4.2 ] is composed in black ball point pen and marker on paper. At this e arly stage of his career, Gera did not yet consider himself an artist. He was working only in line and pattern. 14 The talisman contains intricate patterns around the border with lines that continue into the center and form representational faces and two e yes, two ears, and a nose. In the very center, isolated by a hollow rectangular border is a white diamond. It is important to note the various motifs in this particular image, because like all other talismans, Gera indicates that this one should not be rea d as a sum of its elements or as having one inherent, static meaning. Because figurative images and talismanic patterns change meaning, to understand the purpose of the talisman, one must be aware of title, elements, and the use of the scroll on which the talisman is drawn. 15 Here, the title, use, and stylistic elements are semantically linked. King Solomon was a wealthy king, so this talisman drives away demons that interfere with business, 11 Mercier, Art that Heals 57. 12 Mercier, Art that Heals 41. 13 Mercier, Art that Heals 41. 14 Mercier, Art that Heals 103. 15 Mercier, Art that Heals 59.
71 labels each element in this talisman with a corresponding key below the image. The starburst in the center is to provide light, the vertical walls of the outermost border represent a belt or rainbow, and the horizontal borders are ramparts and fortificati ons. 16 Lastly, the rectangle separating the starburst from the rest of the image is a curtain. The four ears symbolize the four directions of a compass representing prosperity as they listen to proclamations of wealth. The curtains serve as a barrier, pr otecting the wearer, and the belt supports the waist, giving the wearer strength. This talisman as a whole, based on its name, 17 While these scrolls are used for their healing powers, artists take thei r aesthetic appeal seriously. 18 In 1976, Gera abandoned freehand drawing for ruler straight lines, and the following year abandoned line altogether for the use of colored planes, and at the time began to consider himself an artist. Today, the artist continues predominately in this inn ovative, contemporary style, though his works continue to originate in visions. The Seal of Glory [Fig. 4 3 ] made with colored inks on canvas, most clearly exemplifies his use of colored planes. Multi colored cords wind tightly thr and white details fill those panes, creating an extraordinary intricate and vividly colored pattern. 19 Five faces at the center of the canvas stare fixedly at the viewer. Cle rics often incorporate faces in this style as a means of expelling a demon from the body. 16 Mercier, Art that Heals 59. 17 Mercier, Art that Heals 59 18 Mercier, Art that Heals 99. 19 Mercier, Art that Heals 103.
72 When the patient sees the scroll for the first time, he or she will see the faces and scream, which will scare the demons away. Gera believes that the demon is also able to see through the eyes of person whose body he has taken over, thus when he sees his own image he becomes so frightened that he flees on his own. 20 Throughout the intricate talisman, eyes fill the spaces within the pattern. Artists and healers typically present eyes in pairs, though here they are uncharacteristically singularly and in pairs. Whether or not the viewer reads these contrasting white and black images as eyes, they produce a jarring effect. Generally speaking, the eye represents po wer, sometimes death, and beauty. 21 This emphasizes both the strength of the images and the aesthetic choices clerics so carefully make. In The Seal of Glory, the eyes represent light, which he presents in his earlier works as well. 22 Gera transformed tali smans, which have existed for thousands of years, into a fine art. The now healer/artist was raised by a father with a traditional career, began his education in the traditional Ethiopian manner and taught himself about medicinal plants until he knew enou gh to practice medicine. After becoming a cleric, Gera initially ignored the efficacy of the talisman drawings, writing only the prayers on the scrolls. Gera knows that many doctors practice western medicine in his area and that he takes his daughter to o ne such doctor when she is ill. 23 That does not deter him from practicing local medical techniques, such as herbal medicine and scroll healing. 20 Mercier, Art that Heals 57 59. 21 Mercier, Art that Heals 94. 22 Mercier, Art that Heals 94. 23 Mercier, Art that Heals 94.
73 Zwelethu Mthethwa Born and raised in South Africa, Zwelethu Mthethwa began his studies in medicine but switched to art after discovering his talent. Mthethwa has trained in South Africa and the United States, has won many high status awards, and has shown at prestigious venues such as the Venice Biennale. The artist now works mainly in photography, focusing on th emes such as gender, dowry, marriage, aging, and initiation practices. 24 Using styles and techniques that set his work apart from photojournalism, Mthethwa chronicles marginalized populations in South Africa. Unlike the black and white format often used photographs allow a more personal look at the sitters, presenting them as subjects and not victims. 25 Mthethwa says that black and white photogr aphs are linked to a "political angle of desertion and emptiness" reminiscent of a politically tumultuous past. 26 He identity. 27 His subjects, project dignity inhabiting their own space, be it outside in the field in which they work or inside in their homes with magazine covered walls. By showing the sitters in their own space, Mthethwa hopes to inform the viewer of the landscape of Cape Town and rural towns as well as the interior decorations that citizens 24 London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. London, England. 25 Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, (1 999): 46. 26 African Arts 43.2 (2010) 68. 27 Africa Today 54.2 (2008): 1 09.
74 employ in their homes and workspaces. More importantly, Mthethwa shows us the 28 Mthethwa employs the same artistic decisions in his 2011 series of photographs of Sangoma healers. Originally from the Nguni regions of South Africa sangomas heal physical and psychological maladies using herbal medicine and divination. This series was made a decade after the end of the apartheid, a period of racialized oppression in South Africa that made many citizens question their national belon ging as they were relocated to the fringes of the city. 29 Through the use of color and by photographing the subjects in their own space, the healers exude dignity and self confidence. On a trip through rural Somkhele, Mthethwa wanted to find the one pers on or thing that would most effectively represent health. He considered images such as active children, a health clinic, gym, or sports field, but ultimately determined that in a rural town such as Somkhele, health is an issue too complicated to express i n any of these images. I n the image of a sangoma in her interior space we see a close up of the healer herself as well as intricate details of the interior to her medicinal practice 30 wledging the 31 The woman, dressed in a long intricate gown and matching head piece, stares confidently into the camera lens. Sitting on the immaculate mat, leaning calm but alert on her left palm, her g aze is one of 28 London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. London, England. 29 Magee, Spatial Stories: Photographs, Practices, and Urban Belonging, 109. 30 Lungani Ndwandwe and Astrid Treffry Refl 31
75 assertive confidence. Two cloths hang behind her on the wall serving as a backdrop. Three pots line the wall to her right. To her left is a row of candles and filled containers, neatly organized in the corner. This subject is empowered, p roud of her space and confident in her role there. Mthethwa photographs the same woman outside, in an expansive field She stands in a dignified pose on a brown and orange mat, which contrasts with the entirely green earth, another intentional tactic Mt hethwa uses in his photography. Wearing the same robes that she wore in her interior space, she holds an instrument used in healing practices. The woman appears even more confident standing than she did sitting, with her gaze boldly facing the sun. In character and knowledge of healing, not dry facts. 32 Sangoma healer present a respected woman, confident in the efficacy of her medicinal power. Li ke his previous portrait series, he uses these photographs to inform the viewer about interior space of the Sangoma and her physical attributes, but more importantly Abdoulaye Konat Abdoulaye Konat, born in Dir, Mali in 1953, began his artistic studies in Bamako. He later studied in Havana, Cuba for seven years at the Instituto de Superior de Arte. 33 When he returned to Bamako, he worked as a graphic designer and, in 1998, was appointed to the director position of Renontres d e la Photographie Africaine. 32 33 University, 2012).
76 Today, Konate is now the director of the Conservatoire des Arts. Konat began his artistic career as a painter, occasionally experimenting with installations. Eventually he focused his energies on installations that he comple tes with a team of assistants. 34 early 1970s and again in the 1990s, he focused on the encroachment of the Sahel, the area between the Sahara Desert and tropical, fertile sub Saharan Africa. One of these works is called Drame au Sahel. 35 In the 1970s the Sahel region, which includes Mali, experienced a decrease in rainfall resulting in desertification and 100,000 deaths. Commercial crops and livestock also suffered. The drou ght drew international attention and aid to Mali, which presented Malian artists with new subject matter. 36 In 1976, Konat commented on the sociopolitical ramifications of the drought in his Drame au Sahel. The location of this work is unknown but in 1990 he completed a similar painting and included it in an installation that he also titled Drame au Sahel [Fig. 4 4] 37 In the painting, five emaciated figures father, mother, and children surround a dying, leafless tree. One child lies, lifeless, before her father and behind them the mother stands holding one child and supporting another who leans on her. The mother and the child that she holds stare directly out at the viewer. The installation at the Mus ee national du Mali, in which Konate situated his painting, incorporated a full skeleton standing at the back, dried wood and a mirror on the floor that reflects the painting that hangs directly above on the ceiling. In this installation, Konate draws 34 London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. London, England. 35 Andre Magnin and Jacques Soulillou, ed., Contemporary Art of Africa (New York: H.N. Abrams, 1996). 36 37
77 att ention to human and environmental tragedies. 38 By informing his viewers of environmental problems, he calls them to action, hoping to heal this environmental crisis. He redirected his concerns a few years later to issues like HIV/AIDS, dictatorship, and wa not say that I am a committed artist but I am interested in social problems. I see human suffering. Generally, people treat it as a political angle, I always use a social 39 His current body of work takes the form of large scale textiles that he employs to inform his viewers about these social ills, calling them to action. 40 In his artworks, Konat distorts the line that scholars in the past inappropriately drew between tr aditional/modern and local/international in African art. The artist began using indigenous Malian materials like raw or dyed woven cloth when he did not have access to paints and canvases. 41 More importantly, Konat notes that artists on each continent ha ve developed a unique form of art based on what is available to them, finding his desired textures and color palate by utilizing indigenous Malian cotton. 42 Konat buys his materials locally, supporting the local economy, while the subject matter of his wor ks reference global isues. 43 In this way, he is able to engage locally and internationally in a single artwork. He bases his textile works loosely on 38 39 Julie Abdoulaye Konate: Resonances Inferno Magazine 2012. 40 London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. London, England. 41 N/A, We Face Forward: Art and Music from West Africa Today, 2012 42 Julie Abdoulaye Konate: Resonances Inferno Magazine 2012. 43 N/A, We Face Forward: Art and Music from West Africa Today, 2012
78 44 This brings long standing textile styles that exist today in local contexts into the international contemporary art scene. Konat speaks about the loss of culture in Africa, specifically of Mali. He ves to create art that transcends the dichotomy of past and present culture to show the value that still resides in contemporary African art and culture. 45 By combining current political turmoil regarding international wars and local artistic elements in h is work such as the locally produced fabric, Konat reflects a Malian, African, and universal consciousness in his works of art. 46 47 Often the artist uses grisgris in his works. Grisgris are p ouches filled with various objects that serve as amulets to protect the wearer. 48 In these cases the work is meant to symbolically heal the community that the textile references. The artist uses his tapestries to inform viewers of the social implications of diseases such as HIV/AIDS, urging the community to take action. Konat expresses his interest in fighting against human injustices when ion to social ailments with his large scale hanging tapestries. 44 Julie Abdoulaye Konate: Resonances Inferno Magazine 2012. 45 N/A, Tentures Teintures Exhibition at Revue Noire gallery, 2012 46 N/A, Tentures Teintures Exhibition at Revue Noire gallery, 2012 47 Julie Abdoulaye Kona te: Resonances Inferno Magazine 2012. 48 Diane Gillespie, "From Senegal, powerful blessings for American students." The Chronicle of Higher Education 46.7 (1999): B9. U.S. History In Context
79 Bosnie, Angola, Rwanda [Fig. 4 5 ], a tapestry that Konat completed in 2005, hangs in four vertical white panels that pop out of a blood red background. Konat uses strips woven on strip lo oms, the characteristic weaving technology in many parts of West Africa, which entails stitching together four or five inch wide strips. Large, jarring pieces of red cloth representative of blood cover each panel. In the upper left corner of the third pa nel, we see a menacing machine gun image. 49 The work continues onto the who died in wars. 50 This piece comments on the genocides that took place in Bosnia, Angola, and R wanda in the mid to late 1990s. 51 This image of genocide urges us to consider the human condition and the impact it has on a community. He makes this adults. In 2006, Abd oulaye Konat created a healing tapestry series for Israel and Palestine, a region affected by territorial disputes. In his four panel tapestry entitled Gris gris pour Israel et le Palestine [Fig. 4 6] Konat comments specifically on suicide bombings in the Palestinian territory. The panels are stacked two on two, each on a white background with a thin red pool at the bottom that mirrors the blood from Bosnie, Angola, Rwanda. The top two panels incorporate a series of Israeli flags and Palestinian kaffi yeh headscarves in unequal quantities; the top left shows three head scarves and one flag while its counterpart contains three flags and one headscarf. 52 In 49 Julie Abdoulaye Konate: Resonances Inferno Magazine 2012. 50 Julie Abdoulaye Konate: Resonances Inferno Magazine 2012. 51 Julie Abdoulaye Konate: Resonances Inferno Magazine 2012. 52 Julie Abdoulaye Konate: Resonances Inferno Magazine 2012.
80 the bottom register, Konat presents one flag and one headscarf per panel. The uneven combinations in the top two registers and the aggressively opposing flags in the bottom two appear to ask us to consider the future of Israelis and Palestinians if these violent disputes continue. Konat may also be suggesting the peaceful coexistence he hopes for in the balanced images on two bottom frames of the tapestry. The three dimensional gris gris that Konat uses to fill the background of each of the four panels make a direct reference to healing. In his 1996 large scale tapestry, Les Artistes Africains et le SIDA [Fig. 4 7 ], Konat depicts a man walking away from the viewer with blue and brown patchwork robes. Here, the artist uses a deep red circle in the center of his figure. Surrounded by cool blues and brown, the red seems to pop and force us to consi der the sometimes difficult human condition. The somber figure walks away from a three dimensional box that Konat has positioned at the base of the tapestry. Today in some south African countries, HIV positive parents leave boxes like these for the child ren they leave behind as a way of continuing history. 53 communities: health and social justice. He uses his tapestries as a reference to the need for healing the consequences of as war and d isease. Konat hopes that his textile legacy will spread throughout his county and beyond. 54 Contemporary artists are commenting on healing in new and diverse ways. Abdoulaye Konat uses his installations to symbolically heal the emotional state of 53 London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. London, England. 54 Julie Abdoulaye Konate: Resonances Inferno Magazine 2012.
81 commun ities effected by war and disease. Gera uses his works to heal physical illness. traditional South African forms of healing by showing the confidence of the healers in his au thorial portraits. His photographs indicate that these traditional sangoma healers are contemporary and their practices withstood changes that took place during colonialism. In this way, the artist is metaphorically healing a society. In this pan Africa n survey of contemporary art, artists are complicating the definitions of
82 Figure 4 1 Powerful Medicine Protective scroll (detail), eighteenth century
83 Figure 4 2 1974
84 Figure 4 3 Gera, The Seal of Glory 1996
85 Figure 4 4 Close up of painting in Drame au Sahel and installation Drame au Sahel
86 Figure 4 5 Abdoulaye Konat, Bosnie Rwanda Angola, 2005
87 Figure 4 6 Abdoulay Konat Gris gris pour Israel et le Palestine, 2006
88 Figure 4 7 Abdoulaye Konate, Les Artistes Africains et le SIDA 2006
89 CHAPTER 5 CONCLUSION In Chapter 1 I examine three indigenous Yoruba healing techniques: Gelede, l and Egngn in order to better understand ceremonies and objects used in Yorb ritual practice. Using this analysis helps us to determine the original purpose of t he Sapona figures addressed in Chapter 2 which were purchased by CDC workers in Nigeria during the fight to eradic ate smallpox. In Chapter 3 we consider contemporary aspects of each healing technique. T he men who perform E gungun masquera des, which represent ancestors, reenact the past to determine healing strategies for the future. It is imperative that the community witness the performance for it to serve as effective the com munity. The Yorb who adhere to indigenous religion believe that some women possess the ability to turn into aje or witches at night, taking the physical form of a cat or bird. Aje are dangerous and can impair the physical health of one person or the so cial health of an entire community. The Gelede ceremony serves to appease these them off. Furthermore, specific symbols included in the l explain the conseq uence of stealing to a thief. David Doris explains that l is the anti aesthetic, visually representing undesirable qualities. Here, it is what the symbol represents that is important. My research indicates that smallpox healing does take not place th r ough an anthropomorphic figure That is not to say, however, that Yorb priests do not engage
90 with the orisa of smallpox, Sapona, to cure the disease. Even when priests call on an orisa to aid or protect a person, Yorb artists rarely depict the figure of the deity. This leads me to believe that the anthropomorphic representation of Sapona that Bob Boyde collected in Nigeria in the late 1960s was created for profit, not for a healing ceremony. It is also possible that these crude figures were produced as medicinal figures. Contemporary artists also make reference to healing, as illustrated by the work of Gera, Zwelethu Mthethwa, and Abdoulaye Konate. Gera, an artist from Ethiopia who began his career as a healer, uses talismanic scrolls to heal a patie The patient must visually engage with the scroll for the medicine to be effective. Zwelethu Mthethwa photographs sangomas to restore dignity to the impoverished nce. Malian artist Konate uses large scale tapestries to reference wars and epidemics and to urge communities to take action to prevent further violence and disease.
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95 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Kimberl y Morris received her Bache lor of Arts degree in art history from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. She worked for two years in Washington, District of Colu mbia before earning her Master of Arts degree at the University of Florida.