Olokun Tinaja Decorated with Seashells

Below you will see a video of an Olokun tinaja (tall lidded urn) I recently finished. It is covered in seashells, including cowries which are cemented in place. Some might think that this is for “Olokun de Ifa” as the Olokun that babalawos give is covered in cement with some shells. This tinaja is for the Olokun given by Santeros/as as it is empty inside and watertight.

In the early twentieth century (and even before that) it was customary to decorate large water pots with seashells before receiving the orisha from the hands of a Santero or Santera. The practice fell out of fashion as the skill, patience, and resources became scarcer as many, many, many more people started to receive Olokun. You can see early examples of similarly decorated tinajas for Olokun in John Mason’s book “Olookun: Owner of Rivers and Seas” (review forthcoming).

As you can see in the video, this tinaja has been decorated with shells of different sizes and colors. It is 16 inches tall.


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