African textiles, £10.99
Height: 72.000 cm
Width: 16.000 cm
Gift of Sir W. McGregor
Beaded crown (ade ileke)
Yoruba, 19th century
Beaded and veiled crowns, ade ileke, are traditionally worn by those kings who could trace their ancestry to Ododua, the mythic founder and first king of the Yoruba people. The crown is called an orisha, a deity, and is placed upon the king's head by his female attendant. Powerful medicines are placed at the top of the crown to protect the king's head and thus his future. The veil that covers the king's face hides his individuality and increases attention on the crown itself, the real centre of power. The birds decorating the crown represent the royal bird, okin.
Among the Yoruba, beads are associated not only with royalty, but also with priesthood. Beaded caps, pouches, fly whisks and staffs form part of the priest's outfit during ceremonies. Beaded satchels, laba shango, feature in the shrines of the god of thunder, Shango, and are worn in the Egungun and Gelede masquerades.
U. Beier, Yoruba beaded crowns: sacred r (London, Ethnographica, in association with the National Museum, Lagos, 1982)