The Power of Yoruba Symbolism to Communicate Universal Meaning
My interest in African art began back in high school when a friend began to import and sell African masks and sculptures from many different cultures. I was in awe of their power and beauty. Wanting to learn more about them, I spent many afternoons studying the African Art Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery. I began to see the power of symbols to convey many layers of meaning, evoke strong emotions and tell stories. African art is rich in symbolism. Animals, human figures, plants and divinities are among the common symbols. I am especially drawn to the art of the Yoruba, and its' power to communicate universal meaning. Among the many symbols in Yoruba art are birds that signify mystical powers and royalty, kneeling female figures with children that symbolize fertility, protection and beauty, human heads that represent royal ancestors and one's destiny and interlacing patterns that symbolize continuity and balance in life.
Symbols are powerful tools in my work because of their ability to tell stories, transcending language and cultural differences, and communicate our interconnected and common humanity. As in Yoruba art, birds often appear in my art. They have many meanings for me. They signify power, insight, virtue and wisdom. They are a link to the spiritual world, connecting the earth and the heavens . Women are key symbols as well, evoking the beauty and nobility of the human soul and our common humanity.