Finished calabashes, Oyo

Community Commentary by Ajetunmobi within research project: 'Rethinking Relationships and Building Trust around African Collections' 2021

Oyo is home to many crafts of the Yoruba people. They are prominent for calabash making among the Yoruba. The use of calabash transcends utensils. It includes spiritual and religious purposes, ornamental use and commercial purposes. Calabash is used by palm wine tapper to carry his palm wine and to serve his customers. ‘Igba’ (calabash) is also important in religious realm as it is used for carrying appropriation. It is also carried during chieftaincy installation. Hence, calabash has become a part of the Yoruba society and the carvers enjoyed popularity in Oyo. In the ‘Oja Oba’ (the king’s market), calabash carvers have their ‘iso’ (section) where they display their works which are up for sale.

The picture, taken by Stanfield in 1960 at Oyo market, shows the many shape of calabash. The picture was taken at ‘iso onigba’ (calabash section) of the market. The three men are standing and displaying calabashes highly used for spiritual or religious purposes. At the background, the women are selling calabashes which are utensils. This variance is important as it reflects both the social and religious standing of the town and the Yoruba generally.

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