Instruments of Divination in Africa: Works from the Collection of Rhonda Morgan Wilkerson, Ph.D.

January 10, 2020July 3, 2021

African slit drum in shape of an animal

This special installation shows sculptures and other objects used by diviners in some Central and West African cultures.

Divination is a practice that enables people to communicate with their gods, ancestors, and spirits. By bridging the earthly and spiritual realm, divination enables these beings to provide counsel to the living, to identify the causes of evil and harm, to cure, and to protect.

Some instruments used in these rituals can be humble, others are fine sculptures of substantial aesthetic power. Some are figurative, some involve movement and manipulation. Some are purely visual, while others involve music and sound. The examples presented here can only hint at the full range of objects and practices across the African continent. All these objects would have been aids to the diviners themselves as they seek insights into the problems, concerns, and questions of their clients.


Image credit: Unidentified artist, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lobala culture, Miniature slit drum, early 20th century, wood, 20 x 8 in. Lent by Rhonda Morgan Wilkerson, Ph.D., L2019.28.9.