This is an example of an object used among Yoruba communities of Nigeria. It is a shrine dedicated to Ori, a deity of fate, control of which resides in a person’s inner head. An Ori shrine is typically a conical container, called ‘house of the head’, where a small figure that stands for the ‘inner head’ lives. Ori shrines are thought to assist people with self-realization, wealth and vitality in life, and have long been made from large numbers of cowries.
From their origin in a coastal habitat in the tropical parts of the Indian Ocean to their role as a currency in the slave trade and their use in a range of creative objects, cowries have led complex natural and cultural lives.
📸Shrine for the Head (Ibori) inside Its Container (Ile Ori), by a Yoruba artist (Nigeria), a gift of Bernard and Patricia Wagner to the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, USA. Photo: Richard Goodbody (2007). Licence: Fair Use permitted.