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Head of an Oba

Head of an Oba
16th century - Early
Africa : Benin
Brass, iron
h. 23.0 cm
1973
UEA 232

Each new king (Oba) of the Nigerian kingdom of Benin commemorated his father with a portrait cast in brass, made by professional craftsmen of the brass fraternity.

This head is thought to have been made for the funeral of the warrior king Ozolua, performed by his son Esigye in 1505, or at the funeral of Esigye himself in 1551.

Despite being a depiction of an individual this type of commemorative portrait is a highly stylised. The beaded headdress and collar represent the Oba’s coral regalia. The coral would have come from Mediterranean and was a symbol of great wealth and status.

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