- Museum number
Altar of the Hand (ikegobo) of a Queen Mother (iyoba); lost-wax cast in brass. Cylindrical in form with figures in high relief around outside. Central figure of Queen Mother wears coral bead cap, coral bead tunic, crossed coral bead strands on chest and deep beaded collar. Both hands held out with thumbs upraised. Flanked by two naked female attendants holding circular fans. Further four naked female attendants around sides and back of altar. Altar has circular hole in top. Background design of Maltese crosses with bands of interlace patterning and braiding. Narrow flange base.
- Production date
Height: 20.50 centimetres
Weight: 12.10 kilograms
Width: 26 centimetres
Depth: 30 centimetres
- Curator's comments
This is an altar of the hand for a Queen Mother, similar in form to that used by her son the Oba (king) to strengthen his own good fortune. A stake driven through the hole in the centre of the altar held a small carved ivory tusk.
The Queen Mother had a separate court at Uselu outside Benin City where female title-holders replaced the male officials of the Oba's court.
The possession of an altar of the hand - ikegobo - was a privilege reserved to personalities of the highest status in the Kingdom of Benin (Oba, Iyoba, chiefs, smiths, carvers, wealthy traders, warriors, etc).
- On display (G25/dc6)
- Exhibition history
1970-1973, London, Museum of Mankind, Divine Kingship in Africa
1991 Feb-Apr, Norwich, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Man and Metal in Ancient Nigeria
- Good. Surface blackened around lower half probably as a result of fire damage.
- Acquisition date
- 18 June 1897
- Acquisition notes
- During the British expedition to Benin City (Edo) in 1897 objects made of brass, bronze, ivory, coral, and wood were looted by British soldiers from the royal palace, its storerooms, and compounds.
Some of these objects were sold or exchanged in West Africa. However, many were brought to the UK where they were retained by soldiers of the expedition and subsequently inherited by their families; put up for auction; or donated, lent, or sold to museums.
See Collection File: Af1897,-.498-563.
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
CDMS number: Af1897C3.501 (old CDMS no.)