Iya mi Oba (Obba).
Probably one of the most misunderstood Orisa is Oba, until you receive her. Then you wonder how you survived at all without her. She is sometimes known as a woman’s Orisa, however, Oba helps all who need and respect her. No one should be abused—no matter the gender.
Oba frowns on parasitic relationships, even when we are the parasite to ourselves or to others. She advocates love, independence and respect within relationships. When I received Oba, I felt another backbone being constructed in my intellectual and emotional well-being.
Oba has many attributes. Among them is her ability to perform quick, up close work, which is why she carries a dagger. She is commerce and navigation. She is the writer. One of her responsibilities is writing the names of the dead in her book.
Oba's Book, (below) is constructed using a blank journal format. The base fabric is muslin, a hearty cloth and can be easily dyed or painted. I used a combination of paints and hues that mimic the colors given to me in Oba's ileke. There are three signatures inside that create 12 pages. The pages are tea-dyed to reference a soft, antique look, machine stitched horizontally to give the appearance of lines on a page and then machine zig-zagged around the edges.
The inside front and back tea-dyed covers are further painted/embellished by pressing the fabric onto paint remaining on the plastic I used to cover my table. I then machine embroidered the inside with the words “Oba’s Book.” The book's front and back covers are hand painted using acrylic and fabric paints. The front cover is embellished with beads, sequins and Oba’s “key” to the world. The front cover also includes a quill for her writing instrument. The entire front and back cover edges are densely beaded; the front and back surfaces are machine stitched using free-motion wandering called stippling.
Oba's Crown is embellished with sequins and beads, highlighted with her dagger, the doorway, her key and the life everlasting symbol. The crown is further embellished with beaded fringe.
Oba's Olele are constructed with bamboo, bells, ribbon, glass and amber beads. They are beaded using circular peyote stitch. One is 12 inches; the other is 24 inches.
I love making throne art as tools for my Òrìsà. As with commissions, this kind of creativity gives me the opportunity to carefully research Òrìsà’s nature, qualities and effects. Long after I am gone Oba's Book, Crown, and Olele will survive. Godchildren will say, “These objects were created by Iya Ala Ofun. This is legacy.
`Ọṣun (sometimes spelled Oshun) represents beauty, emotion, and civilization. Some say `Ọṣun, as the first to experience abuse, sickness and poverty, understands our emotional needs. One of her tools is the mirror. She challenges us to gaze inside. She wants us to address our own secret hurt and pain. `Ọṣun is remedy, empowerment and healing. This is beauty
Earlier this year, an Olóòrìṣà (priest) commissioned me to create the special cloth for `Ọṣun Ibú Àparò, the quail as messenger (sometimes spelled and pronounced Oshun Ibu Akuaro). This road of `Ọṣun requires a covering with five draped scarves. Her colors are yellow, green, light brown and off-white.
I thought about a top circular motif and central figure. This led me to the quail, `Ọṣun Ibú Àparò’s messenger. I decided on hand embroidery with beads and sequins. To give the piece movement, I surrounded the quail in hand embroidered chain stitching to then lead downwards in the piece to machine embroidered scallops. Since I needed to encase the yellow top circle inside a backing somehow, I decided on reverse appliqué, using gold cloth for structure, texture and contrast.
Next I needed to think about how to construct the five scarves. First I made new cloth by machine stippling glittered netting onto yellow and green cotton fabric. Then, using a strip piecing technique, I cut and stitched long strips of each fabric together to make another new cohesive flat piece of fabric. From there I made a scarf template and cut each scarf.
There are three focus scarves, two in the front and one in the back. These three scarves are machine embroidered with the same scallop stitch as the top central piece. Two yellow scarves are situated in either side and these scarves mimic the curved sequins work from the circular top piece. The scarves were then pinned to the circular top piece and stitched. I purchased double bias tape, but the manufactured yellow tape seemed foreign and out of place against the yellow of the fabric. This led me to create my own double bias tape in the same fabric as the central yellow circle. This helped give the piece another layer of continuity.
Special cloth for `Ọṣun Ibú Àparò
Threads, sequins, beads, fusible web, cotton and synthetic fabric.
Bead and sequin embroidery, machine embroidery, hand embroidery, reverse appliqué, strip piecing, beaded fringe, handmade double bias stripping, machine stippling and stitching.
Accepting the occasional commission allows me to carefully research that certain Òrìsà’s nature, qualities and effects. Long after I am gone this cloth, and other commissions, will survive. In this case, the owner’s great great grandchildren will say, “This cloth covered our great great grandfather’s `Ọṣun Ibú Àparò."
Perhaps my name, cathleen margaret, and Ocha name, Ala Ofun, will survive as well. If not, I’ll know and more importantly Òrìsà will.
Creating art for Òrìsà bring blessings for life and beyond. This is my legacy.
An invitation to visit my art galleries.
Palm oil plantations destroy rain forests (our planet's lungs) from Indonesia to West Africa. Think about palm oil in ice cream, peanut butter, bread, potato chips, cosmetics and more. Read labels before purchasing. Consider alternatives. Thank you.
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