Benin Kingdom Leadership Regalia

by Kathy Curnow
Cleveland State University

Chief Osague, Benin KingdomNigeria, 1994. Photo by Kathy Curnow. 

 

This detail of Chief Osague's dress shows costume elements, which have been a chieftaincy fixture for at least five centuries.  At his hip is a brass pendant head; many 16th century plaques show similar pieces, and examples of ram, baboon, Portuguese and leopard heads are also known.  The pendant is kept highly polished with lime juice and sand.  Its sheen and glitter embody the frightening powers chiefs command; the darkened surface of most museum examples would be unappreciated in Benin itself.