British Expedition to Benin City, 1897. Donated by Admiral Rawson to the Admiralty following the British Expedition to Benin City in 1897. Subsequently mounted in the First Lord's office until donated to the Museum in 1961.
Commemorative head; lost-wax cast in brass. In form of human head, hollow with opening in top. Three raised scarification marks above eyes. Openwork coral bead cap decorated with additional large beads; single bead at front over forehead. Strands of beads and braids at sides of face and at back. Deep coral bead collar over chin to below mouth. Flanged base with various symbols in low relief.
Trustees Committee minutes, 8 July 1961 and Special Report by Adrian Digby, 26 June 1961 record : 'The tusk [Af1961,09.2] is probably of the nineteenth century, and the head was almost certainly cast in1888 when Oba Adolo died and his son, Ovonramwen, on his accession, set up an altar in his memory. '~Heads of ths late type show the exaggerated choker of coral beads and complex coral headdress worn by the king of Benin on ceremonial occasions. The latter is said to recall the ada sword that symbolises the right to take human life. Around the base are depictions of leopards, rams' heads and other manifestations of power. (Label text: Man and Metal in Ancient Nigeria, 1991). ~See Collection File: Af1961,09.1-2.~Register 1961: 'Brass casting of a head, aperture at top, circular flange at base ornamented with various animals and objects. BENIN- probably made in 1888, taken at the Benin Expedition, of 1897.'
Exhibited: 1970-1973, London, Museum of Mankind, Divine Kingship in Africa 1991 Feb-Apr, Norwich, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Man and Metal in Ancient Nigeria 2004 Jun-Aug, Palma de Mallorca, Spain, Centro Cultural de la Fundacio 'la Caixa', Africa: The Invention of the Human Body 2004 Sep-Oct, Tarragona, Spain, Centro Social y Cultural de la Fundacio 'la Caixa', Africa: The Invention of the Human Body 2004-2005 Nov-Jan, Valencia, Spain, Sala de exposiciones l'Almondi, Africa: The Invention of the Human Body 2005 Feb-Apr, Zaragoza, Spain, La Lonja, Africa: The Invention of the Human Body 2007-2008 Apr-Oct, Bristol, Empire and Commonwealth Museum, Slavery, Abolition and the Making of Modern Britain