Benin Kingdom Leadership Regalia

by Kathy Curnow
Cleveland State University

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

 

Also hanging from the hip are two red cloth forms called abuwa, which represent wealth. These two shapes are abstractions of the hands, the ten "fingers" gathering possessions for their owner.  Personal wooden shrines to the right hand/arm are constructed in honor of achievements, and seem derived from nearby Igbo examples.  Chiefs of lesser rank wear plain cloth abuwa.  Another costume element rises stiffly from the hip; similar forms appear on Benin plaques.