Art and Rule in the Benin Kingdom

by Barbara W. Blackmun
Professor Emeritus, San Diego Mesa College

Carving of a Town Chief (?) wearing ehaenegbehia, motif from an ancestral altar tusk. Photo by Barbara W. Blackmun.


Below his coral odigba, this warrior chief wears ankle-length armor of quilted hand-woven cloth, covered with overlapping pieces of imported scarlet flannel called ododo.  As one of four “Pillars of the Kingdom” chosen by the Oba on the basis of political and physical strength, he grasps a spear with his right hand.  He holds the dancing sword called eben at his left side, in front of the tall hip ornament of stiffened red leather that is attached to his waist.  Panels of red ododo descend from the peaked red helmet, and he wears multiple strings of coral beads on each ankle as insignia of his high rank.