Carved wooden wand. A discoid grip at one end of the shaft, and a double-headed projection at the other.
A wand used in dances and ceremonies by Shango devotees. Shango is a deified king of Oyo, assoicated with lighting, storms, fire, aggression, divination, and kingship. The wand's double projection depicts "thunderstones": neolithic stone celts thought to be the remains of lightning bolts hurled by Shango. As dance paraphenalia, the wand is a focal point for devotees; a device that facilitates the trance state dancers enter during ceremonies.
Brass bell or gong in the form of a human head. A loop on the top would have served as a handhold or place to tie the instrument. The opening of the the instrument is squared and flat in order to rest upright.
Gongs are used in Yoruba communities for communication, music, and religious ceremonies. This gong belonged to an ogboni secret society. The ogboni societies have religious and civic functions. Gongs were used by the ogboni to swear in witnesses in disputes. The gong calls ancestral spirits to hear the testimony and will punish those who give false testimony.
A portable painting in mineral pigments and gold on a primed cotton ground; the painting is designed to be rolled up when not in use. The painting was folded at some time in its history, resulting in a loss of pigment along two vertical lines.
At the center of this complex composition is a large, white-skinned figure with six arms, each bearing a weapon, and three heads (one white, one blue, and one red, each with three eyes), wearing a helmet: this is Pehar Gyalpo, originally a non-Buddhist spirit invited to Tibet in the eighth century by Guru Padmasambhava to serve as protector of Tibet's first Buddhist monastery, Samye. Pehar is shown astride a snow lion (a white lion with a green mane; the symbol of the Tibetan state). At his fee are three similar wrathful protector deites, mounted (from right to left) on a lion, a horse, and an elephant; two more, both mounted on horses, are in the upper corners. Each of the mounted figures is enveloped in flames, of varying colors. At the very top center of the painting is a portrait of a monk, possibly a representation of Padmasambhava. The entire scene is set in a blue-and-green mountainous landscape.
The word "altar" or "shrine" in the Yoruba language means both "face of the gods" and "threshold to the gods". An altar is a locus of worship, a point of connection, and the place of the "in-between" where life and death converge and this world meets the one beyond. For genetic reasons, Yoruba have the highest twinning rate of any human population. They honor deceased twins with altars like the one reconstructed here. An altar is a living art form that must be fed and cared for by devotees who leave offerings of food and sacrificial gifts in adoration of the departed. Twins who die in infancy have Ibeji figures such as these carved in their honor. Bearing and nourishing newborn twins is physically difficult and dangerous to the health of both mother and nuslings, and many do perish. The hope is that by honoring a twin that dies, its other will survive.