Plaque with single figure

Edo peoples, Benin Kingdom Court Style
16th–17th century
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General Description

The figure cast in high relief on this plaque represents a high-ranking warrior chief from the ancient Benin Kingdom, which was founded during the 13th or early 14th century. His formal military attire includes an elaborate hat decorated with horsehair, a coral beaded choker, a protective leopard-tooth necklace, and a bell for signaling his position. He carries two weapons, a knife under his left arm, and a sword in his right hand. The leopard’s face depicted on his tunic put fear in the hearts of his enemies. The background river-leaf pattern is thought to symbolize Olokun, god of wealth, fertility, and seas. Oversea trade was the kingdom’s source of wealth and well-being.

This plaque was made by a member of the royal brass casters guild. Such plaques were described in published accounts by 17th-century European visitors who had seen them in the palace of the oba (king).

Excerpt from

Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, Arts of Africa, 2015.

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