How Yoruba Arts Inform Ethical Ideas: Flash of the Spirit Chapter Review

Art (Fine arts, Performing arts)

The short response should be about this question: How is Yoruba art informed by ethical ideas? I am taking a Religion: Meaning and Purpose in the Arts class. Use the book “Flash of the Spirit, Robert Farris Thompson (Vintage Books, 1984)” to do the response. The assignment is worth 15% of the final grade. Read […]

Yoruba Art Influence on Ethical Ideas

Ethics among the Yoruba people define the concept of right and wrong, thus guiding their moral, religious, and social compass. Similarly, their art plays a significant part in defining communal attitudes and relations by combining functional ethics and religious themes. Yoruba art influences and guides behavioural patterns by conveying ethical imperatives drawn from abstract themes involving Eshu-Elegbara’s myths and symbolism.

 Eshu’s Myth-Influenced Art and its Effect on Ethics 

The Yoruba people’s societal norms were guided mostly by myths surrounding Esho-Elegba deeds, which provided ethical guidelines reflected in their art. A common legend explains how Esho-Elegba gained supreme leadership over other gods by honouring the supreme god. According to the legend, Esho-Elegba honoured the divinity god with a crimson parrot feather on his forehead, which signified that his head was not burdened (Thompson,18). The divinity god took his gesture as submission, wisdom, and humility and bequeathed him the title of the supreme god, and his virtues became more apparent when he honoured other contestant gods with a feast (Thompson,18). The legend’s symbolism of feathers to signify abstract, ethical notions shows art forms as personifies to reflect values within the Yoruba people.

Another common myth amongst the Yoruba narrates how Eshu, a prince and liar, claimed to have witnessed a pair of eyes beside the crossroad, to everyone’s disbelieve. The occurrence claimed his life as he did not honour the eyes (Thompson 20). However, the priests of the land performed a rite honouring him, which pacified Eshu’s spirit by returning order into the world, while his spirit possessed a stone (Thompson 21). The story expounds on how honour and respect result from honouring Eshu’s idols and other abstract art forms associated with the god.

Other narrations tell how Eshu devoured his mother due to his gluttony. Orunmila, the god of divination and Eshu’s father, pacified Eshu and stopped his hunger-driven destruction by cutting him into small pieces which possessed yangi shards and stones, which his father consulted whenever he embarked on a mission for success (Thompson 21). Therefore, the possessed stones and sculpting symbolized how Eshu’s gluttony concealed kindness, meaning that the god can either give or take depending on the worshiper’s devotion and sacrifice.

The Effect of Eshu’s Art Forms on Ethics

Esho-Elegba’s art forms and ethical ideologies permeated the Yoruba way of life, thus serving as religious relics while embodying a wide variety of ethical attributes and teachings. For example, Esho-Elegba wears a black and red cap which provokes individuals to argue about its colour. The colour difference signifies that a person should gain full knowledge before passing judgment (Thompson, 19). A Cuban Eshu sculpture also contains a red and black club or dance hook that signifies the same (Thompson 32). Similarly, a ritualistic crimson feather in Brazil, Bahia, and the Benin republic represents the seat of judgment, which means that an individual must cultivate the distinction between right and wrong (Thompson 18). Some sculpting contains blade-like elements, sometimes represented as serpent’s heads, symbolizing self-multiplying power (Thompson 28). Other art forms have bulging eyes to represent Eshu’s power of agency, paired gender sculpting represents individuality and the principle of life, and kneeling sculpture represents sacrifice, submission, and propitiation (28-33). Therefore, Yoruba art represents ethical ideologies such as spiritual coolness, ethical imperatives, ritual reconciliation (irele), and sacrifice (ebo).

Yoruba art plays a significant role by informing and influencing ethical themes embedded in religious and social foundations. Similarly, art serves as a social drive towards communal behaviour, and its affiliated notion of moral attitude and common good contributes significantly towards social harmony and attitudes amongst Yoruba people. Therefore, the relationship between art, ethics, and spirituality in the Yoruba community significantly amplifies the contemporary understanding of African thinking.

Work Cited

Thompson, Robert Farris. Flash of the Spirit. Vintage Books, 1984.

« »

Customer's Feedback Review

Published On: 01-01-1970

Writer Response

Discussion Essay

  • Papers
  • Views
  • Followers
Get Access
Order Similar Paper

Related Papers