Benin Kingdom Leadership Regalia

by Kathy Curnow
Cleveland State University

NigeriaBenin Kingdom peoples

Belt mask of Iyoba (Mother of the Oba) Idia

ca. 1517 - 1550

Ivory

H. 12 cm (4 3/4")

Seattle Art Museum, Gift of Katherine White and the Boeing Company, 81.17.493

In 1977 the British Museum, in possession of an ivory pendant representing Idia, refused to loan the piece to Nigeria during its 1977 international festival for black arts and culture (FESTAC).  Idia's image became a national rallying point as a reminder of the colonial legacy.  The pendant has inspired many Benin artists and patrons since, its image occurring on gates, doors, cloth and buses.