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ARTHIST: 371 and a Yoruba Tunic

Visiting Assistant Professor Matthew Francis Rarey brought a twentieth century Yoruba beaded tunic from Nigeria into his ARTHIST 371:African Art class. He used the object from the UWM Art Collection to explain the Yoruba proverb iwa l’ewa, which translates to “essential nature is beauty.”  In Yoruba thought, any object that fulfills its essential nature and purpose in life is considered to be beautiful. On this tunic, the many different faces and colorful beaded designs all reflect different aspects of spiritual and physical forces throughout the universe. A visual balance between these forces, as reflected on the tunic, also reflects a balance and harmony between these spiritual powers. In turn, this is a metaphor for the essential nature of the tunic itself – making it beautiful.