Teaching Ideas

Encouraging Dialogue

For Students K-12

  • How did the artist make it clear that the oba, or king, is the most important figure on this waist pendant? What details suggest the power or importance of the oba?

  • What clothing or adornment do you typically think of when you think of a king or queen? In what ways does this waist pendant affirm or contradict your ideas about royal attire?

  • Consider the clothes and accessories which suggest power in our own culture and in cultures around the world. How does the president dress, for instance? Where do these styles come from? What do their clothes tell you about the cultures with which they are associated and the attitudes of those cultures towards people in power? What does this pendant tell you about how authority is expressed and understood by the Edo peoples?

  • Among the Edo peoples, the oba is the primary patron of art. Does the oba’s patronage of this pendant change the way we should view it? Why or why not?

  • In Edo beliefs, the oba was the master of the earthly world of land, humans, armies, and craftsmen; Olokun was the master of the spiritual world and god of wealth, fertility, and the sea. How does this ivory carving show this relationship?

  • The oba, or king, stands on top of a face. The face is Olokun, another king. What are those things coming out of Olokun's nose? (They're mudfish--another name for catfish. Mudfish are symbols of the spirit of the watery world.)

Making Connections

For Students K-12

  • Compare the way the oba is represented on this Waist Pendant with the way Vishnu is shown in Vishnu and attendants (1963.29). How are the figures surrounding Vishnu similar to or different from those surrounding the oba? _What differences and similarities do you notice between the dress and adornment of the _oba and Vishnu?

  • Instead of sketching with paper and pencil, sketch with toothpicks and bars of soap. Study the patterns you see on the pendant and create sketches of these patterns in soap using a toothpick. The rectangular, grid-like patterns represent the coral garments worn by the oba and his high priests. Look for patterns in your clothing or the clothing of a classmate. Create a new image in the soap or in a drawing that emphasizes these patterns.

  • Stand with two friends in the position of the _oba _and his high priests. Does standing in this way feel natural or unnatural? Is it easy or difficult to support the central figure in this position?