Yoruba figural offering bowl - "Opon Igede Ifa" or "Olumeye" (one who knows honor)
Traditionally, bowls such as these were used to hold kola nuts (obi) as offerings of hospitality, which were given to visitors as a gesture of
welcome, and friendship. Often the guest and others present would chew kola while conversing.

The kneeling position is a gesture of respect, devotion, and submission. "Olumeye" means "one who knows respect".
In Ifa divination rituals, the bird symbolizes honor and prosperity; when offered as sacrifice. The containers in these objects were often in the form
of a chicken (adie) with the lower half of the bowl containing the feet and the upper part of the bowl (missing in this example) containing the head
and wings.

Hair in Yoruba art and culture is a fascinating topic all on it's own.  "In general, a woman's hair may reflect her state of mind or important phases in
her life, such as the naming ceremony of a new child, chieftaincy installations, marriage, and the various festivals in honor of the orisa. In the past,
a widow was required to undo her braids, leave her hair disheveled, and remain indoors until the completion of her husband's funeral rites, which
may last about three months. At the end of the mourning period, her head would be shaved clean to mark a symbolic separation from her
deceased husband and a return to normal life (Daramola and Jeje 1975:153. Although Yoruba burial customs vary from area to area, in most
cases the head of the corpse, male or female, was shaved clean before burial." (Hair in African Art and Culture pg 98)
CLICK HERE to see a really great one of these figures at the Hamill Gallery that is already sold

Below is a figure that I saw in Paris at the 2006 Parcours des mondes
It was a really great figure with lots of nice detail, it was in Galerie Afrique Noire, the asking price was 40,000 euros
Below is a different style figure that is used for different purposes than
the examples above, they were used in shrines. It was in the Galerie
Ratton-Hourdé in Paris for Parcours des mondes 2006.
Below is a photo from the Galerie Ratton-Hourdé in Paris showing the group they had on display for Parcours des mondes
Examples below are not in my collection
They are for reference purposes only
From the book - Remnants of Ritual
Figural offering bowl, Yoruba; Nigeria
Wood, iron, pigment; H. 14 1/2"

Among the Yoruba of the Ikiti region, carved wooden bowls portraying female figures holding chickens are traditionally offered to guests
as a gesture of hospitality and generosity. Thompson describes this particular bowl as "… a figurated container for kola of a kind called
Olumeye (‘one who knows honor') carved in the style range of Efon-Alaiye. …Olumeye supports one child on her back and guards
another to her right. The keel of her coiffure (Irun Agogo) proclaims her marriage to the gods." Additionally, Daniel McCall has explored
the significance of the Yoruba woman holding a bowl with a carved chicken on the cover and its relationship to the Yoruba creation story:
"At Ile Ife, considered in Yoruba thought as the center of the world and ultimate place of origin for all Yoruba city states, Oduduwa, the
creator, descended from the skies by a chain, but there was no place for him to stand since there was only water below. So Oduduwa
emptied a container of earth on the water and placed a giant five-toed chicken on the dirt. The bird scattered the soil about and thereby
increased the dry land, enabling Oduduwa to plant a palm nut which grew into a many-branched tree. Thus the earthly foundation
established by the "Earth Spreader" is in fact Oduduwa himself". Almost certainly carved by Agbonbiafe, this delicate offering bowl depicts
at once the characteristics of motherhood, protection, generosity, and beauty.
Sothebys 2001

A Yoruba kneeling female figure

Estimate 6,000—9,000 USD
Lot Sold.  Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium:   6,000 USD

A Yoruba kneeling female figure
kneeling on a circular base, the female figure with curling toes and rounded hips supporting the elongated torso, the attenuated arms holding
a lidded kola-nut bowl in the form a chicken, beneath the elegantly carved head with large facial features, and wearing a tall, single-crested
coiffure, the whole decorated with elaborately incised linear motifs; fine reddish brown patina with traces of camwood powder and indigo.
height 13 5/8 in. (34.6cm.)

'This work was carved in Efon-Alaye in the southern Ekiti area of Yorubaland. It is clearly from the Adesina group of carvers whose skills were
famous throughout the Ekiti and Igbomina areas, but not by the master Agbonbiofe. The beautiful proportions indicate that the carver had an
eye for composition (oju opa) and also a capacity for delicate surface ornamentation which does not detract from the overall work. ...The
figure wears a tiara, an Islamic amulet, at her back and chest. This is often found on carvings from the Ekiti and Igbomina areas (Pemberton
1999: personal comm.).'
A figure in the collection of the American Museum of Natural History, NY

BOWL [90.2/ 3331 AB]
Culture: YORUBA  
Country: NIGERIA?
Acquisition Year: 1960
A figure of different form in the collection of the National Museum of African Art

Female figure with children

Yoruba peoples
Oyo state, Nigeria
Early-mid 20th century
Wood, indigo pigment
H x W x D: 39.5 x 19 x 23 cm (15 9/16 x 7 1/2 x 9 1/16 in.)
Museum purchase

Yoruba figurative sculptures for shrines dedicated to various deities often depict female devotees accompanied by
children and holding bowls for kola nuts or other offerings. This particular example, according to an inscription on a
1948 field photograph by Kenneth Murray, was a gift to Orisha Oko, an orisha (deity) associated with fertility
throughout Yorubaland but particularly in the Oyo region. The sculpture is attributed to an unknown artist in Irawo, an
ancient village near the town of Oyo. Originally two children flanked the kneeling mother, who carries an infant on her
back. The bowl probably had a lid carved in the form of the upper body of a fowl. In this work the artist created the
image of a fecund woman who is testimony to the god's power to bestow fertility and insure successful childbirth.
A Figure of a Kneeling Woman with Offering Bowl - Olumeye
Yoruba society, Nigeria. Wood.
Fowler Museum of Cultural History

A kneeling women holds an Ifa divination Kola nut bowl in the shape of a chicken. Decorative detail is kept to a minimum revealing a smooth
surface and traces of the carvers tool, such a quality suggests vitality. Her youthful body, stylization of her hair, posture of her offering, and
self-contained composure of her face reveals her inner beauty, inun, in Yoruba language. The attitude of kneeling is idealized, the face is
impassive, the arms are strong and calm, and the head and trunk are held erect. The heads of the figures are large and oval.

The chicken represents the mother in a transformed state. Mothers shown carrying children suggest a long period of sexual abstinence as well
as suppressed menstruation,suggesting purity and cleanliness, a pleasing female attribute. The child on the mothers back holds a Shango
dance wand in one hand and a rattle in the other. On the mothers back is a Islamic charm ,tirah, a protective amulet, suggesting the northern
Oyo in this work. Kola nut, obi , were given to the Kings as an act of hospitality. (Pemberton)
The object above was the first one in the exhibit
that was part of the 2006 San Francisco Tribal and Textile Arts show

Yoruba ceremonial bowl for kola nuts, portraying Olumuye, "One who knows honor"
Nigeria - Late 19th century - Wood - 11" high (Asking price on this piece was $18,000.00)
Courtesy of James Willis
Offering bowl by Olowe of Ise

CLICK HERE to go to the page on my site for the works of Olowe of
Ise to see information about this particular piece as well as images of
other works by Olowe of Ise.
Divination bowl, woman with chicken
Nigeria, Efon-Alaiye; Yoruba
Collected by William R. Bascom, from carver's mother, 1938.
Loan from the estate of Berta Bascom (B-1946ab)
Phoebe A Hurst Museum

Ifa divination, central to Yoruba life, was a special interest of Bascom's. A form of fortune-telling, it is used by its clients to help
understand the cause of misfortune or to secure blessings and advice on significant undertakings. Among the diviner's principal
ritual tools is a set of sixteen palm nuts, which he may keep in a carved wooden bowl. This example bears one of the more popular
designs. In a motif of submission and greeting, a kneeling female worshiper offers a sacrificial cock. This fine bowl was old when
Bascom collected it during his doctoral fieldwork.