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wolfgang-jaenicke

An Oba in the style of the Benin bronzes

An Oba in the style of the Benin bronzes

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An Oba in the style of the Benin bronzes. The sculpture has a crack at the left arm and the handle is broken at the base, proclamation staff, isevbere igho, The gong-shaped proclamation staff in his left hand was made of either brass or ivory, while the ceremonial sword - called "Eben" -in his right hand was made of brass, according of the oral tradition.

Ebẹn are often described as swords, however they are used more like sceptres. During ceremonies titled chiefs would hold them or throw them during dances, and in doing so they pay homage to the Ọba at these public events. When a chief receives a certain status and is awarded an Ebẹn, he would dance with it to pay homage to the Ọba. But also the Oba is dancing with the "Eben", to honour his ancestors.

It is forbidden for Ebẹn to touch the ground, so the chief would have to take extra precautions to avoid dropping the Ebẹn during the dance. Therefore the Okae-Odionmwan (head of executioners) dances with the cutting sword (Umozo) behind the dancing chief.

In this work, his power is highlighted by the depiction of four small swords in relief on the blade of the ceremonial sword, an association with Olokun, the god of the sea, the sword is deformed over the years and is bent backwards, usually a sign that it is not a recent bronze, partly with greenish oxidations, the surface is greyish and not "golden bright" like many "restored" bronzes in the Museums, because it was once preserved with oil that is dark oxidized.


Pitt Rivers Museum, Antique works of Art from Benin, printed privately 1900, page 62, Plate XXX1

"This cast brass commemorative altar figure of an Oba is depicted wearing an elaborate beaded coral crown of a type probably introduced during the reign of Oba Osemwende (1816-1848). The figure holds a ceremonial sword, or Eben, used by Obas in honouring their ancestors and a proclamation staff, isevbere igho, in the form of a bell. The museum originally bought four figures similar to this one in October 1897 from A. Hewer, who was probably a dealer. A year later one of the four was sold to General Pitt Rivers and another was sent to the Field Museum, Chicago in exchange."
Source: Field Museum Chicago

TL analysis available on request.


Height: 69 cm
Weight: 7,3 kg

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