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Commemorative Head of an Oba

Location

NIGERIA, SOUTHERN REGION

Era

Kingdom of Benin (about 1280-present)

Culture

Edo

Title

Commemorative Head of an Oba

Date

19th c.

Materials

Brass

Dimensions

47 x 30.5 x 33 cm

Credits

Purchase, gift of F. Cleveland Morgan, inv. 1950.51.F.5

Collection

Archeology and World Cultures

Founded by the Edo, the kingdom of Benin is one of the largest kingdoms in West Africa. Its capital, Benin City, is located in the south of Nigeria (not to be confused with the present-day Republic of Benin). On the death of the sovereign (oba), his successor has a commemorative head cast in his honour. Topped by a carved ivory tusk, it is placed on the ancestral altar for veneration. Multiple strings of coral beads – jewellery believed to contribute to the king’s divine powers – adorn the neck. The side wings decorating the braided cap appeared in about 1830. Crowned in 2016, the current oba, Ewuare II, continues the tradition.

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