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Producer unknown to us

Commemorative head of an Iyoba (Uhunmwun elao)

Africa, Nigeria, former Kingdom of Benin

Prior 1897


Arthur Baessler (ethnologist) bought the bronze from the Völkerkundemuseum Berlin in July 1899

Donation to the Museum für Völkerkunde Dresden by Baessler in 1899


These ancestral memorial heads called “uhunmwun elao” were commissioned by the ruling Oba (King) after the passing of his mother, the Iyoba. They were placed next to the aseberia (altar tableau) on the Iyoba’s royal ancestral altar in the palace of the ruling Oba. They served to commemorate the late mother of the king and to depict the position in court that she once held. Hence, usually after the Iyoba's death, a large altar (a semi-circular mud platform onto which altar objects are placed) was created upon which the uhunmwun elao sits along with a number of other objects and sculptures. The altar serves as a point of communication with the deceased Iyoba as well as to celebrate her life and successes.

Enotie Paul Ogbebor