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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Benin : Benin Style Bronze Head of an Oba
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Benin Style Bronze Head of an Oba - PF.6284
Origin: Nigeria
Circa: 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 11.25" (28.6cm) high
Collection: African
Medium: Bronze

Location: United States
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This king continues to survey his territory. His eyes peer out from below his regal headdress. The power and wealth of this Oba is signified by his elaborate jewelry and ornamentation. He wears a beaded crown that covers his head like a net. Four sets of beaded tassels hang down from the rim of the crown, framing his face like locks of long hair. A thick ring of beaded necklaces serves as a sturdy base. This head is representative of a style of busts cast in the 16th Century that have now been designated by scholars as, “rolled-collars,” due to their distinctive collar. 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 placed on a special altar and worshipped by the Oba in semi- annual ceremonies, invoking the spirit of the deceased ruler that was believed to play an active role in the lives of his lineage and the community as a whole. Originally, an arching ivory tusk carved with images of the Oba and his courtly entourage would have been fitted through the large hole in the top of his head, adding significantly to the royal majesty of the Oba. 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 beautiful craftsmanship and coveted for its rarity, this head of an Oba continues to command a royal presence of power and dominance. - (PF.6284)


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