Anonymous: Queen Mother Pendant Mask (16th century)

(Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA)

Another famous object from Africa. This is an pendant made from ivory and is one of a nearly identical pair - this is the version from the Metropolitan Museum of Art which has a damaged chin band, the other is in the British museum). The pendant probably represents Queen Idia, mother of Esigie - Oba (= king) of Benin (rule 1504–1547). Esigie had this pendant made and wore this to honor his mother who became the first Iyoba (Queen Mother) of Benin. The white color of the pendant is in Benin associated with Olokun, god of the sea - the source of extraordinary wealth and fertility. The tiara and collar of the pendant is composed of stylized mudfish and the bearded faces of Portuguese. The mudfish represent the Oba's dual nature as human and divine, the Portuguese were considered denizens of the spirit realm (Having come from across the seas) who brought wealth and power to the "oba". Object from the 16th century.