Drawn from the Mead's broad collections, Divination explores rituals across time and cultures through which individuals and groups aspire to make contact with and benefit from knowledge held in metaphysical, spiritual realms. Divining plays a particularly important role in spiritual practices throughout Western and Central Africa, and a diverse selection of objects in the installation from the Yoruba, Luba and Songye peoples (among others) testifies to the special powers with which divination tools themselves become imbued. European and American artists tend, rather, to represent divination, often borrowing from history, literature, and contemporary life. Despite the fact that dominant faiths in European industrialized countries often incorporate aspects of divining, divination is often mistakenly associated in the West with superstition and the past.
Divination was prepared with generous assistance from Rowland O. Abiodun, John C. Newton Professor of the History of Art and Black Studies, and John Pemberton III, Professor Emeritus of Religion.