Nigeria-Yoruba Medicine Staff, c.1900
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Sculpture, Hand forged iron
29 x 12 x 11 in
"Nigerian Yoruba Medicine Staff" is a hand-forged iron implement created for medical practice in Nigeria. It depicts a central stick with a bird on the top surrounded by a circle of smaller radiating sticks. 29" x 12" x 11 1/2" The Yoruba medical practice is most frequently used in West Africa and in the Caribbean and is a system of herbalism and psychotherapy. Starting from the Ifa Corpus religious text, Yoruba practice focuses on expelling tiny organisms ("germs", "worms") from the body through a combination of herbs, plants, dances, gestures, and prayers. This Nigerian staff depicts a bird, which was a common symbol of Osanyin, the spirit of herbal medicines, whom Yoruba priests and healers called upon to help fight mental and physical ailments. This bird figure is placed high so he can watch over humanity and protect them. The staff itself would have been placed upon an altar during ritual healing.