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Memorial Head: Gallery Label - Current


Minneapolis Institute of Arts



Institution Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Benin metal casting is believed to have begun in the 14th century, when memorial heads were first created to decorate shrines honoring deceased Obas, or kings. The hole in the top of the head held a carved elephant tusk chronicling the exploits of the honored king. When an Oba's responsibilities passed from one generation to the next, each new Oba commissioned artists to create memorial heads representing his predecessor. This head was created during the Middle Period of the Benin Kingdom, considered the high point of Benin art. The Oba is shown wearing a beaded necklace and hat, with another bead on his forehead, all made from coral brought across the Sahara Desert from the Mediterranean Sea. Coral was held only by the Oba, and its use in his ornaments symbolizes his far-reaching control of international trade.
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Type: Commentary, Gallery Label - Current
Source: Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Rights: Copyright Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Added to Site: November 21, 2009