Queen Mother Pendant Mask (Iyoba)

Queen Mother Pendant Mask (Iyoba)

The Benin ivory mask is a miniature sculptural portrait in ivory of Idia, the first Iyoba – or Queen Mother – of the 16th century Benin Empire, taking the form of a traditional African mask.

In Benin, ivory is related to the color white, a symbol of ritual purity that is associated with Olokun, god of the sea. As the source of extraordinary wealth and fertility, Olokun is the spiritual counterpart of the oba. Ivory is central to the constellation of symbols surrounding Olokun and the oba. Not only is it white, but it is itself Benin’s principle commercial commodity and it helped attract the Portuguese traders who also brought wealth to Benin.

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