Benin Ivory Head of an Oba - PF.5562
Origin: Benin City, Nigeria
Circa: 1600 AD to 1897 AD
Dimensions: 7.5" (19.1cm) high x 4.5" (11.4cm) wide
Collection: African
Style: Benin
Medium: Ivory


This king continues to survey his territory. His bulging eyes peer out from his arching brow. The power and wealth of this Oba is signified by his elaborate jewelry. In typical Benin fashion, coral necklaces rise up to his lips. He wears a beaded crown that covers his head like a net. While this bust represents a deceased Oba, according to Benin belief he would be even more powerful in death than in life. This image would have been worshipped on a special altar, invoking his spirit that was believed to play an active role in the lives of his lineage and the community as a whole. The rite of ancestor cult was pervasive throughout Benin, as represented by this head. The dead king continues to rule, now from an altar instead of a throne. The idolization of deceased relative, in the case of royalty, also served to establish a continuity of rightful rule. The force and strength of the Oba continues to penetrate the viewer. While it is now appreciated for its craftsmanship and coveted for its rarity, this head of an Oba continues to command a royal presence of power and dominance. - (PF.5562)



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