Benin Kingdom Leadership Regalia

by Kathy Curnow
Cleveland State University

Chief’s house, Benin KingdomNigeria, 1994. Photo by Kathy Curnow.


After completing the circuit through town, the chief and his followers return home to feast and celebrate.  A cow and other livestock are usually cooked for the guests.  Although many chiefs' homes conform to older one-story courtyard prototypes, others run the gamut of modern architecture.  Decoration with free-standing cement figures or reliefs is becoming increasingly common, as are iron relief-sculpted gates.  Although these artistic features are shared by other wealthy homes, only certain chiefs are entitled to flute their house walls with horizontal ridges.  This scoring, derived from palace architecture, informs all passersby of the owner's status.  Chiefs who own shops in town often use the fluting on their commercial buildings as well.