Ring with Chameleon (Yawiige)

Date: 19th–20th century

Geography: Burkina Faso or Côte d'Ivoire or Mali

Culture: Senufo

Medium: Brass

Dimensions: H x W x D: 1 1/2 x 1 1/8 x 1 1/8in. (3.8 x 2.8 x 2.8cm)

Classification: Metal-Ornaments

Credit Line: The Bryce Holcombe Collection of African Decorative Art, Bequest of Bryce Holcombe, 1984

Accession Number: 1986.478.29


Across West Africa, individuals visit diviners when they are ill or have other concerns. Diviners establish contact with spiritual intermediaries during private consultations in order to discern causes of their clients' problems. The practitioners recommend measures to resolve the problem. They sometimes prescribe yawiige, a Senufo term that means "something that follows you." Yawiige refers to pendants, bracelets, anklets, and rings that diviners advise their clients to acquire from local artists. The ornaments redress conflicts uncovered through divination and offer their owners protection from harm. Given each client's uniqueness and the personal nature of divination, an ornament's form does not reveal the reasons for which it was prescribed or worn. Chameleons appear frequently in Senufo arts and are considered a primordial animal. Chameleon images often grace yawiige rings, as seen on this example.