A Yoruba diviner (babalawo) would have carried this beaded leather bag to transport divining implements during his travels. In fact, diviners, who lead a peripatetic lifestyle, are commonly known as "carriers of bags" (akapo). Emblazoned with the word Onire, the bag marks its wearer as "the possessor of blessings." Its personalized beadwork, strip-sewn fabric interior, and worn beaded strap suggest that this bag was thoughtfully constructed and frequently used.
After Britain’s occupation of present-day Nigeria was recognized during the Berlin Conference of 1884–85, seed beads from British traders flooded the market and were used widely by Yoruba bead artists through the twentieth century. Seed beads offered the range of colors required to illustrate the complexity of the Yoruba political and religious system. This bag’s beadwork calls upon many different deities for protection: green and yellow beads refer to Ifa (the Yoruba system of divination); red faces to the god Ogun and a chevron pattern to the god Sango. The floral pattern, however, marks the influence of Victorian textiles—present during the period of British colonialism—on Yoruba design.
"The checklist of the John B. Elliott Bequest," Record of the Princeton University Art Museum 61 (2002): p. 49-99.