This is entry #65 in our 100 Philosophers, 100 Artworks, 100 Words Series.
Philosopher: Kọ́lá Abímbọ́lá, Howard University
Artwork(s): Ostrich Ethics:
(i) painting by OrisaWorld Foundation (May 5th, 2017) [above]
(ii) Odù Ifá poem by the Yorùbá of West Africa (date unknown) [below]
(iii) Òrìṣà Music recording by Kọ́lá Abímbọ́lá (May 5th, 2017) [below]
Kọ́lá Abímbọ́lá performs Ifá Kíkí
Words: “Artistic expression” is often erroneously taken to mean individualist visual forms that are created by the skill and imagination of nameable and identifiable persons. Ostrich Ethics, however, is multifaceted, it is: individualistic and communal; holistic and piecemeal; intellectual and emotional; oral and written; art for art sake as well as heuristics for living; and it is still very much an art form. Or rather, since there are various facets to the work, they are still very much art forms.
Additional Information on Ostrich Ethics:
- The painting Ostrich Ethics is a rendition of an elegant big bird. It is pleasing to the eye.
- Ostrich Ethics is also a poem from Odù Ifá, which is the sacred scriptures of Òriṣà Religion. The denominations of Òrìṣà Religion include: Ìṣẹ̀ṣe, Candomblé, Santería, Lukumi, Ṣàngó Baptists, and many others. There about 500 million practitioners of Òrìṣà Religion all over the world.
- Ifá poems are used in Ifá divination as exemplars of ìwà (positive virtues to emulate and negative character traits to avoid).
- Odù Ifá has 256 Odù (“Books”) and each Odù has 800 poems, making a grand total of 204,800 poems. Each poem has eight parts: four parts are compulsory in the sense that they must always be rendered exactly in Yorùbá word for word; the optional parts need not be included and, when rendered, they can be performed in various ways.
- I have captured the beauty of the compulsory parts of this poem in written form above; and both compulsory and optional parts as Òrìṣà Music, which is a mixture of indigenous Yorùbá music with jazz, hip-hop, and funk—accompanied by percussion and vocal styles.
- Each poem is, therefore, an art form that can be appreciated primarily for its beauty or emotional power.
In 2005 UNESCO proclaimed the Ifá Divination System of West Africa as one the sixteen Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritages of Humanity.