The orisa—all 401 of them—are real. They exist, not as metaphors or parables, but as genuine sources of energy contained in every aspect of our universe. The Ifa devotee or orisa worshiper is constantly striving to open his or her channels to these energies. This is not a process that can be achieved through “understanding” but only through ritual. 

Words and explanations can take us to the door, but if we are to enter, experience, and benefit from the vast reservoir of energy that is available to us through Ifa, words and explanations must be left outside. In many ways Ifa is the original instruction book for the rituals that allow us access to this boundless energy. Learn it, work on it, and when you are finally able to leave the words at the door and experience it, you will have found your path home.


**This map is not accurate in scale as Aksum is much larger, and extended into Arabia. Sokoto is also not included.**

It has been noted that the first records of people describing their land as ”Motherland” were the Ancient Egyptians however the word above literally means, ‘Land of the spirits’ meaning ‘land of the Ancestors’. It is from the work of Adolf Erman and Hermann Grapow.

Worthebuch der Aegyptishen Sprache. Band V, p. 216. The Ancients referred to Africa south of their country by names such as Ta-Kenset, literally „placenta-land‟, Khenti = „ land of beginnings‟ and Ta-iakhu = „the land of the spirits‟, that is, “where the souls of ancestors dwell ( “Nile Genesis: Continuity of Culture from the Great Lakes to the Delta” in Ivan Van Sertima).


There is an academic debate that the Ancient Egyptians called themselves Black based upon KMT (Kemet) which in some circles is translated as “Black people.” Now at the end of the word KMT is an ideogram which can only mean physical place (the cross road sign above).


The ideogram indicates the context in which the word applies. An ideogram for humans would always be used to represent a word that applied to people. However Kemet can only mean Black Land since the ideogram indicates it is describing a built or non-human environment. But none of this discredits the founders of Kemet as being African people, just like the Fulani or the Amhara. “Black” in the North American context. The “social “construction of race in America does not rely on skin color. “African Americans,” as Asante notes, ” constitute the most heterogeneous group in the United States biologically, but perhaps one of the most homogeneous socially.” The issue is color is used against African interest, for example:

Statement: “The Anicent Egypts were Black people”,

Reply: “no there were brown in color”

Truth: They were African people and like many African people display skin colors from high yellow to deep black.

Despite the new wave of myths regarding Nubia and Kemet (Ancient Egypt) It is clear that Kemet and Nubia were neighbouring African Civilizations just as Aksum and Nubia. Difference doesn’t mean Nubia was a ‘black race’ and Kemet wasn’t. Both groups were ethnic groups of indigenous African origin. The ethnic differences were no more significant than Ethiopians verses Kenyans.

Even today, you can find dark skin Ethiopians, much darker than South African Zulus and you can find light-skin Ethiopians lighter than most Arabs, and light skin Zulus lighter than most Indians. Skin color among African people is and always has been highly varied.

The salient reality is that no one can deny the historical truism that the Greeks (the world’s first Europeans) went to ancient Kemet to study at the Temple of Waset (later called Thebes by the Greeks and Luxor by the Arabs).In his magnum opus, A Lost Tradition:

African Philosophy in World History, (1995) Dr. Theophile Obenga quotes Aristotle ranking Egypt as “the most ancient archeological reserve in the world” and “that is how the Egyptians, whom we (Greeks) considered as the most ancient of the human race” (p. 45).

Nigeria | Yoruba | Arugba Sango (Sango Shrine Bowl)


Image Credits
Left Image: Detroit Institute of Arts: Seated Female Shrine Figure
Middle Image: Zemanek-Münster 53rd Tribal Art Auction: Bowl Bearer “Arugba Shango”
Right Image: Indianapolis Museum of Art: Shango Food Bowl


These vessels, arugba Sango, are found mostly in by the Igbomina and Ekiti tribes of North Eastern Yorubaland. Arugba (meaning ‘bowl carrier’) Sango vessels are associated with the worship of the god of thunder and lightning, Sango, and used to store ancient stone celts that are believed to be thunder-stones (edun ara) thrown from the sly by Sango. When villagers found edun ara, they’d take it to the diviner (babalawo) to keep at the Sango shrine “for it is through thunderstones that sacrifices are offered to Sango”.1

Distinguishing Features

  • Interior is not divided into compartments
  • Depicts a seated or kneeling woman
  • Female figure carved holding or balancing a large bowl above her head
  • Figures sometimes painted a dark indigo blue , red and white (red and white being the colours associated with Sango)
  • The base of the carving can sometimes feature smaller figures such as other Sango devotees carrying ose Sango staffs or chickens for sacrifice to the god Sango
  • "Elaborately carved Sango bowl are far less common than undecorated and lidless wooden bowls”1

1For Spirits and Kings: African Art from the Paul and Ruth Tishman Collection: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Nigerian Women - Igbo Vs. Yoruba

Nigerian Women – Igbo Vs. Yoruba

Originally posted on

Folakemi Odoaje


Why aren’t we riding motorbikes like our Igbo sisters?

Today in any part of Yorubaland, it is very unlikely to see any Yoruba woman on motorbikes, one can not rule this out in a big city like Lagos. A well to do Yoruba woman household may have several cars and motorbikes but she will likely rely on someone to drive her around leaving her stranded when the…

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Nigeria | Yoruba | Odo Sango (Sango Mortar)


Image Credits
Top Images: Rago Arts and Auction Center Tribal Auction, 1 March 2009
Bottom Image: Barakat Gallery, Masterpieces of African Art: Yoruba Wooden Stool


These pedestals, odo Sango, are found mostly in by the Igbomina and Ekiti tribes of North Eastern Yorubaland. Associated with the worship of the god of thunder and lightning, Sango, these inverted wood mortars are placed in Sango shrines and used as pedestal bases to hold calabash vessels within which thunder-stones (edun ara) are stored.

A festival is heard annually for the worship of Sango. Before the festival takes place, the odo Sango and other shrine objects are prepared by being washed and re-painted in Sango’s colours (red, white and blue). On the day of the festival, an animal sacrifice is made and it’s blood is poured over the collected edun ara placed in vessels stored on the odo Sango. The babalawo then offers prayers to Sango through Esu (the messenger of Yoruba gods) to acknowledge the sacrifice made.

Distinguishing Features

  • Height = 12 - 16 inches
  • Carved from a solid, single piece of wood
  • Inverted mortar (hollowed out middle)
  • Made of dense, heavy wood
  • The sides of an odo Sango are always carved with a variety of emblems and figures:
    • Depict Sango / Sango babalawo / devotees of Sango / ose Sango / Ram’s head
    • Scenes carved in high relief

1Yoruba: Sculpture of West Africa: William Buller Fagg, John Pemberton, Bryce Holcombe

Nigeria | Yoruba | Apo Ifa (Divination Bag)


Image Credits
(Top) First Image: Los Angeles County Museum of Art: Ifa Bag
(Top) Second Image: Fowler Museum at UCLA: Beaded Bag
(Bottom) First Image: Los Angeles County Museum of Art: Ifa Pouch
(Bottom) Second Image: Minneapolis Institute of Arts: Bag


The Yoruba typically turn to a babalawo (diviner) when seeking advice or faced with an illness. The bag for Ifa (apo ifa) is used by babalawos to carry their set of sixteen kola nuts (ikin), divining chains (opele) and other ritual accessories. The collection of these items, including the diviner’s bag, are called abira.

Beaded objects are usually reserved for royalty in Yorubaland, but the importance of babalawos in communicating with Orishas is underpinned by the possession of beaded items such as the apo ifa

For more, see the UNESCO video HERE on the Yoruba divination process and the article on Ifa divination on the Art & Life in Africa website, hosted by the University of Iowa Museum of Art (UIMA) HERE.

Distinguishing Features

  • Made of woven cotton cloth or leather
  • Height = 9 inches
  • Width = 8 - 15 inches
  • Full-sized flap
  • Flap may be decorated with cowrie shells or imported European beads
  • Flap usually features a beaded face (referring to Orunmila, also called Ifa, the god associated with wisdom, knowledge and divination)

1Ifa Divination: Communication Between Gods and Men in West Africa: William Russell Bascom