Art celebrates Yoruban ‘Ase,’ the power to bring about change

“Masquerade of Orisa Sango” by Orisanmi Kehinde Odesanya.

Getting lost inside the cosmos is an activity I recommend. While we were driving home from a friend’s house the other night, we searched for planets and stars in the sky with the help of a mobile application.

Understanding where Jupiter is, and realizing that we have just successfully placed a satellite inside its orbit, is a humbling experience. And that type of humbling experience is brought down to earth in a new exhibit, “Sixteen Crowns: Manifestations of Ase.”

“Sixteen Crowns” is packed with pieces of artwork from the personal collection of Dr. Ade Ofunniyin, an adjunct professor at College of Charleston, as well as an Ifa priest and anthropologist.

Dr. Ofunniyin co-curated the exhibit with Jody Berman, a doctoral candidate in art history at the University of Florida.

But before we get too far into the realm of the cosmos, it may help to have a little context for the exhibit. After all, art offers opportunities to learn about unfamiliar areas of the world and, in this case, the outer world.

Ase (pronounced ah-shay) is a Yoruba word with many different meanings. One meaning likens it to saying “Amen.” But it also is a philosophical concept through which the Yoruba, a people of Nigeria, conceive of the power to bring about change.

Ase is the power to make things happen; a manifestation of Ase, as the two curators are presenting, are physical, artistic objects of the embodiment.

As for the numerical idea behind “sixteen crowns,” according to the press release, Yoruba belief states that 16 is the number of the cosmos and when the world was created, a palm tree (akin to the Tree of Life, I imagine) with 16 branches spread out.

The Yoruba artists represented in “Sixteen Crowns” have found strength, foundation, courage and commitment in their beliefs; the beliefs of an ancient culture that sustains the African diaspora to this day.

The mixed-medium exhibit includes drawings, sculptures beadwork and textiles, and the timing of the exhibit coincides with a year of universal appreciation and acknowledgment of the Yoruba people.

If you go

What: “Sixteen Crowns: Manifestations of Ase”

Where: City Gallery at Waterfront Park

When: July 15-Aug. 28; opening reception 5-7 p.m. Friday

Price: Free