Animal Imagery

By Mary Nooter Roberts
University of California, Los Angeles

Nigeria; Benin Kingdom peoples

Leopards

Bronze

L. 69 cm (27 3/16”)

National Museum, Lagos, Nigeria, 52.13.1, 52.13.2

Photo by Dirk Bakker

 

Animals provide apt metaphors for leadership and power in African thought and expressive culture. The representation of an animal can empower a hunter or evoke the authority of a king. Regalia frequently depict animals in scenes of domination, such as a leopard eating an antelope; these images are intended to declare a king's might. In other cases, animal imagery refers to a state of liminality.