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Commemorative head of a Queen Mother

Commemorative head of a Queen Mother From Benin, Nigeria, early 16th century AD

  • Back view

    Back view

  • Side view

    Side view

  • ¾ view from front

    ¾ view from front


Height: 40.000 cm

Gift of Sir William Ingram

AOA 1897.10-11.1

Africa, Oceania, Americas

    Commemorative head of a Queen Mother

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    Commemorative head of a Queen Mother

    From Benin, Nigeria, early 16th century AD

    Queen Idia

    Queen Idia, mother of Oba Esigie, king of Benin from the late fifteenth to the early sixteenth century, played a key role in her son's military campaigns against the Igala people, which may have been over control of the Niger waterway. Benin finally won these wars and made the Igala king a vassal of the Oba.

    Oba Esigie also fought an internal battle with his brother, Arhuaran, over the establishment of a capital city. Oba Esigie was based in the capital, Benin City, but Arhuaran sought to establish another large important city, Udo, as the main centre. Brass casters of Benin were taken to Udo to work until Oba Esigie won the war.

    A brass head representing Queen Idia was made to be placed in her altar following her death. It is said that Oba Esigie instituted the title of Queen Mother and established the tradition of casting heads of this type in honour of her military and ritual powers. Such heads were placed in altars in the palace and in the Queen Mother's residence.

    P. Girshick Ben-Amos, The art of Benin (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)


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