Height: 27.000 cm
Width: 14.000 cm
Depth: 17.000 cm
Room 25: Africa
Brass head for use in the worship of Osun
Edo peoples, 18th century
From Benin, Nigeria
Osun is one of a number of deities worshipped in Benin. His power lies in plants of the forests. Magical specialists, or ebo, use herbs and plants to create magical or medicinal potions.
In the eighteenth century, the Obas (kings) of Benin developed a new form of representing their magical and mystical powers through brass heads such as these. This example has snakes issuing from the eyes and nostrils, and a crown of birds, both creatures being closely associated with Osun. Birds were often sited on the top of palaces and have prophetic and protective powers. The stone axes on the forehead are associated with lightning and its destructive powers.
P. Girshick Ben-Amos, The art of Benin (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)