Insight and Artistry in African Divination
Among the peoples of Central and West Africa, divination rituals are performed in moments set aside from ordinary affairs, yet they take place when ... Show synopsis Among the peoples of Central and West Africa, divination rituals are performed in moments set aside from ordinary affairs, yet they take place when circumstances require them. Intimately connected to daily life, they are attempts by individuals, families, or communities to discern through diviners the causes and meaning of anxiety, mishaps, conflicts, losses, and death. Artifacts such as sculptures, trays, baskets, animal horns, rubbing devices, and slit-drums are essential to the efficacy of divination rituals. Although such instruments need only be rudimentary for the ritual to be performed, the aesthetic power of ritual objects that are created with imagination and skill enhances their ability to convey meaning. Focusing on the role of artistry in African divination rituals, fifteen essays by leading scholars reveal the similarities and differences in the practices of a wide range of sub-Saharan cultures. While suggesting that a shared tradition underlies the religious and artistic expressions of the Yoruba, Luba, Chokwe, Yaka, Pende, Punu, Guro, and other peoples of the region, the contributors also document variation -- in words, sounds, and gestures as well as in the ritual artifacts themselves -- not only from one divination system to another but also within individual communities. Despite increased discussion of the religion and art of the peoples of Central and West Africa, few cross-cultural studies have been undertaken. Generously illustrated, this volume demonstrates that ritual objects contribute to the reimagining of experience that is the purpose of divinatory rituals -- and that for the peoples of sub-Saharan Africa, insight and artistry are inextricably related.