메인 Journal of Religion in Africa DREWAL, Henry John, and PEMBERTON, John III, with ABIODUN, Rowland, Yoruba: Nine Centuries of...
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REVIEWS DREWAL, JohnIII,withABIODUN, HenryJohn,andPEMBERTON, ArtandThought, New Yoruba: NineCenturies Rowland, ofAfrican withHarryN. Art in association York,CenterforAfrican AbramsInc., 1989,256pp., maps,illus.,index,$65,00 04 8. 0 945802 0 810917947 (paper), ArtandThought isbothanintellecNineCenturies Yoruba: of African withan in conjunction tualandvisualdelight.It is published Artin NewYork. exhibition bytheCenterforAfrican sponsored whichI havebeenfortunate Thismagnificent exhibition, enough and toseebothinNewYork(andattendtheopening symposium) Institution in ofAfrican Artat theSmithsonian at theMuseum exhibiasthedefinitive heralded D.C.,isrightfully Washington, I shalldiscuss thetext art.Inthisreview, tionof Yoruba however, notjustfor standsin its ownright)andits importance (which ofAfrican forscholars butmoreparticularly Yorubaspecialists in general. religion thatAfrican societies aredominated byoraland Considering it is surprising thatthevisualandperformance visualtraditions, sucha marginal artshaveoccupied placein thestudyofAfrican thatarthistorians Thisisallthemoresowhenweconsider religion. of alikeproclaim the'interrelatedeness andhistorians ofreligion inAfrican societies' andwhenboth theforms ofcultural expression ofwhatthe fromWestern havesuffered assumptions disciplines inotherwords,restrictive, or exclude, humanities should include Thisbookhasa definitions ofbothartandreligion. ethnocentric ofreligion inthatregard. Itiswritten bya historian quality healing In addition to thebenefits ofsuchinterandtwoart historians. of to theindivisibility theauthorsarecommitted disciplinarity, Thisdoesnottranslate intoa crudefuncYoruba artandthought. a particular isidentified tionalism, object bythefunction whereby etc.Norarewe it serves, beitdivination, sacrifice, royalhomage, thatallartissacred. Ratherit isanattempt tocomledtobelieve achieved afteryearsof carefulandthorough binethe insights and fieldwork by the authors,withthe valuablelinguistic to of the 'insider',Rowland Abiodun, philosophical knowledge 2; 81 and cosmological of explorethe mythological underpinnings Yoruba artistic achievement. Theauthors havefourmainaimsintheirstudywhich areworth here(p. 233).Firstly, to tracethe outlining theyareconcerned richdiversity in historyofYorubaart andrevealits antiquity, mediaandstyle,anditscontinuity overtime,thereby challenging ofAfrican artasahistorical. popular misconceptions Secondly, they aimtoquestion thetendency observers tohomogenize byoutside Yoruba culture-theideathatit is a single,monolithic whole or thatit stemsfroma particular suchasIfeorOyo.Theydo centre, thisbyillustrating theplurality of'centres'thatat various points inYoruba andindiverse the history wayshavesignificantly shaped course ofYoruba cultural Thisisindeed reflected in development. thewaythebookisstructured, withchapters fortheartofancient andthe Ife, Esie,Owo,the Ijebu,Oyo,andthe North-East Western kingdoms. inanattempt toavoid theuncritical useofWestern conThirdly, art(thesameproblem aboutYoruba obtains for ceptswhentalking Yorubaaesthetic religion, also),theauthorsseekto understand andartistic intermsofthelinguistic andconperceptions creativity oftheYoruba themselves. Itseems sosimple and ceptual categories soobvious tophenomenologists ofreligion) andyethas (especially beenpainfully inmanystudies ofAfrican art.Finally, the lacking bookemphasizes theinnovative oftheartistin Yoruba creativity intoquestion thenotionthatcultural tradition is culture, calling dominant andplaces constraints ontheAfrican artist.Ofparticular interest hereistheroleofspiritual inencouraging the inspiration or thefreedom oftheartist. conformity Theauthors insistthat'thestudyofhistorical rightly antiquity andcultural areinseparable' diversity (p.233):Inthecaseofthe a Yoruba,perceived unityin termsof the desireto establish withIfeandOduduwa isessentially a twentiethpolitical heritage Likewise it couldbeargued thattheBritish century phenomenon. colonial withitspolicy ofindirect rule,servedto bring system, moreYoruba-speaking undera single statestrucgroups together turethaneverbeforein theirhistory. Wecouldpointto similar withtheinfluence ofWestern on parallels missionary Christianity African Another overall thrustofthebookisto religious systems. us that Yorubaart is not limitedto Sangoshrine persuade orIfebronze collecheads,assomeWestern sculpture, ibeji figures 282 ofselecting torsandobservers would haveusbelieve. Theprocess andprivileging certain orritualsasthecasemay objects (orbeliefs reason(affinity withWestern tastes,worldview, be)forwhatever effectonthestudyofAfrican culture. etc.)hashada lasting Letmenowdiscuss in moredetailwhatI consider to be the meritsof thisbook.Theauthorsare trueto theirintentions, a rangeofethnographic, arthistorical, assembling archaeological, andrelgious datato enhance ourunderphilosophical, linguistic andappreciation of Yoruba artandculture. Wearemade standing sensitive to former,prevailing andalternative ona explanations number ofissues, suchastheorigins ofbronze casting techniques andtheEsiestonefigures andtotheshared ordivergent meanings ofthevarious in Yoruba culture signifiers (suchasbords,heads, themulti-media stools, crowns, etc.).Thebookembodies approach to Yorubaart as advocated by the authors.Static,clinical, decontextualized no longerdominate as in manyearlier images works. Wearesometimes onthe givenmanyanglesanddetails samepiece,whether or side.There back,front,top,underneath arearchival andfieldphotographs been (manyofthelatterhaving forestablishing the takenbytheauthorsthemselves), important ritualcontext. Thereareseveral oflocations, usefulphotographs andpalaces. Oneisalsostruck shrines, namely compounds bythe numbers ofphotographs ofpeople, people making, usingandwearasdevotees, diviners, ingtheart,whether priests, kingsorartists. isthewayinwhich interaction Particularly fascinating mayoccur between themedia, suchasinthecasedetailed where byAbiodun, he suggests that the wayin whichelderlypeopleposedfor inthefirsthalfofthecentury inOwomayhavebeen photographs life-size usedin influenced bytheakotradition (naturalistic, effigies in Owo)(p.103). andnamedafterthesecond-burial ceremony Another illustration ofthis'organic' toYoruba artistic approach totheinterplay ofthevisual istheimportance attributed expression andtheverbalin Yoruba culture. Thisis an areastrongly influofWande Abimbola encedbytheseminal workinoralliterature to thepresentbook),andwhichmeritsfurther (seehisPreface tolearn thanthebookallows. it isenlightening However, analysis oftheinterconnections between artistic formandtheverbalarts, ritualincantations orpraise whether proverbs, myths, poems (oriki) relevant texts.Thisnotionof andto be ableto readselected, inYoruba culture isfurther 'intertextuality' strengthened bycon- 283 sideration oftheroleoftheperformance arts.Thisisparticularly foundprimarily the casefor the Geledemasquerade among Western Yoruba which tothespiritual peoples payshomage powers of elderlywomenknownaffectionately as awoniyawa ('our Thepowers maybe used mothers'). possessed by suchwomen ornegatively within andtheGelede positively society masqueraders seektoplease andplacate 'ourmothers', elaborate masks through andcostumes, andchoreography, encouraging songs,drumming forthewell-being themto usetheirextraordinary ofthe powers community (pp.219-22). Therearemanyfineexamples andillustrations the throughout bookwhich couldusefully a discussion aboutdefinitions engender I would ofartandreligion inanAfrican context. for recommend, richaccount oftheorisa oftheOyoempire Pemberton's example, which thecultoftwins(ibejz) includes (pp.156-187) (pp.170-75), theiconography oftheSantocult(pp.156-170) andtheegungun Thereisthefascinating ileori masqueraders ('powers concealed'). contains ora ofthehead')which thepotentsymbol ('house (iborz) essence the inner,spiritual person's (p. 26f.)and,byextension, beadedcrowns(ade)whichsymbolize the king's mangificent himwithhisroyal andhisinnerspiritual head,linking authority whohavejoinedthepantheon ofgods(p.33).Thereis ancestors aninteresting Gelede maskofanorisa initiate whose headhasbeen washed andpainted toreceive thespiritofthedeityduring shaved, trances possession (fig.256,p. 223)andmuchmuchmore. Whilethe ofthebookareminorincomparison. Mycriticisms useofindigenous termsandconcepts wherever iscommenpossible ofdiacritical marksis not.Whilethereis no dable,theabsence on a standard agreement amongthe Yorubathemselves thefailureto indicate thatSangois actually orthography, pronounced ororisaisreally canonlyleadtolinguistic orisha, Shango, ofwhom confusion therewillsurely readers, non-specialist among bemany. I failtounderstand therationale oftheveryshortindex,which seems to consist ofplacenames,apartfromnumerous primarily entries onobaandOgun.I triedlooking butfailedto up'Gelede' finditlistedandthisishardly inobscure culture. ofYoruba aspect A muchmorecomprehensive andcross-referenced indexwould havebeenpreferable andinkeeping withtheoverall ofthe quality book. University ofTennessee ROSALIND I. J. HACKETT