Altar Group (Aseberia) with an Iyoba and Attendants

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Benin Kingdom, Nigeria

Altar Group (Aseberia) with an Iyoba and Attendants, 17th/18th century

33 x 30.5 x 23.5 cm (13 x 12 x 9 1/4 in.)
© The Trustees of the National Museums of Scotland, A1898.380

In Benin the practice of creating figural groupings for royal altars dates to the 17th century. This altar group was made for an iyoba's altar and shows her at the center back, wearing a coral-beaded cap over her distinguishing “chicken’s beak” hairstyle. Flanking her are female attendants who hold aloft mirrored charms, which act as gateways into the otherworld. Warriors and ewua officials, each important members of the iyoba’s court, are also in the procession. Two leopards, symbols of the oba’s power, stand at the front.

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