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 Museum Explorer

Leaders and rulers
in Africa

The Queen Mother's mask

Length: 24.500 cm
Width: 12.500 cm
Depth: 6.000 cm

AOA 1910.5-13.1

The Queen Mother's mask

From: Benin, Nigeria
Date: 16th century AD

This face shows Idia, the mother of a sixteenth-century Oba (king of Benin). Idia was a strong woman, greatly respected by her people for the help that she gave to her son, the Oba Esigie, especially in his war against the neighbouring Igala.

The mask is actually a large pendant, worn around the neck by the Oba during the Emobo ceremony, held every year to drive away bad forces.

Can you see a row of tiny heads that look like they are growing out of Idia's hair? These are Portuguese, the foreign traders who brought much wealth to the kingdom.