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Commemorative head of Queen Idia
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This brass head represents Queen Mother Idia, whose son Esigie was a king (oba) of the Benin people about 1504-10. Benin was one of the major powers in West Africa, in the region of modern south-west Nigeria. Its wealth was expressed in many art forms such as cast brass figures and plaques. Some of the most beautiful objects include castings of the royal family such as this head.

Queen Idia was an important warrior who fought for her son in battle and played a key role in his military campaigns. This brass portrait head 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.

Commemorative head of Queen Idia


From Benin, Nigeria, early 16th century AD
Ht 40 cm.




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