This section of the web site offers readings, images, and maps that can help students to further understand course assignments, but which are not required reading. In other words, the readings on this page are for your Information (FYI). Links from the five sections of the course come here, and are marked thus: Optional (FYI) Reading.
Ere Ibeji. Twin Figures
Wood, beads and brass necklaces
Among the Yoruba, twins (ibeji) are special children whose birth can bless their parents with good fortune. The Yoruba have one of the highest rates of twin births in the world, and the loss of twins is therefore considered a great misfortune.
BLOLO BLA. FEMALE FIGURE
Baule, Ivory Coast
The Baule believe that before people are born into this world they have a spouse in the other world, and that these spouses occasionally become angry or jealous and disturb the lives of their living partners.
When this happens, a diviner recommends that an altar be established where the spirit may receive offerings and be appeased. The carved figure of the "spirit spouse" should be beautiful in order to please the spirit and attract it to the shrine.
The annual Epa festival celebrates the important social roles of a town: its chiefs, farmers, warriors, hunters, priests, and women. The climax of the festival occurs when male dancers appear, surrounded by their followers and wearing tall, heavy masks like this one, receiving salutations, praise names, and songs.
AKUA'BA. FEMALE STATUETTE
The akua'ba figure is supposed to induce pregnancy and ensure safe delivery of a beautiful, healthy infant. After being blessed by a priest, a woman carries the statuette around with her and treats it like a real child; she adorns it with beads and earrings, "nurses" it, and puts it to bed.