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ID number:  BIRRC-D0035
Institution:  Research and Cultural Collections
Named collection:  Danford Collection of West African Art and Artefacts
Artist / Maker:  Unknown
Title / Object name:  Replica Queen mother head (Iyoba)
Object type:  Sculpture
Place made:  Benin City, Nigeria
Culture:  Edo (Bini)
Materials:  Plaster
Measurements:  39 cm
BIRRC-D0035.jpg

This is a British Museum replica of a Benin bronze head, the original dating from the 16th century. Traditionally the Oba (king) would commission a bronze head of his predecessor in the first few years of his reign as a mark of respect and reverence. Heads were stylised to an ideal of kingship becoming larger and more and more elaborate in dress and decoration as time went on, the beaded headress and coral regalia reflecting the Obas wealth and ancestry.

In the same way as Obas honoured their predecessors, Iyobas (queen mothers) also received cast brass heads in rememberance. The title of queen mother was established in the sixteenth century for Idia, mother of Oba Esigie, for assisting him in averting threats to his rule and the kingdom. Queen mother heads are also stylised, depicting a coral crown that arches into an elongated peak called a 'chicken's beak'. This replica was purchased in 1963.

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