Copper Masks

919 Words 4 Pages
The essay “Kings, Crowns, and Rights of Succession: Obalufon Arts at Ife and Other Yoruba Centers” by Suzanne Preston Blier argues that Copper mask said to represent Ife king Obalufon II is related to the succession of rulers and that its symbolism comes from Obalufon II’s time as a ruler as well as his deification (386). This article is effective because of its meticulous examination of the history of Obalufon II, Ife history and other works relating to the mask. Blier begins the essay by discussing Copper mask said to represent Ife king Obalufon II. She visually analyzes the mask before mentioning some theories that other scholars have constructed having to do with how the Yoruba people used it. They propose that the Yoruba people used …show more content…
She argues that the mask’s symbolism has everything to do with Obalufon, his rule and the fact that he is a deity (386). She discusses Obalufon in great detail and uses those details along with the information discussed in her subtopics to connect the mask to coronation ceremonies. For example, Biler mentions that Yoruba people associated the deified Obalufon with peace, prosperity, war, and fortune (391). This information could explain why in more recent Ife coronation ceremonies, the crown was placed on Obalufon’s head (most likely a sculpture) before the king could wear it (386). Perhaps, this could explain the original use of the mask. Another great quality of this thesis is the fact that it is a new, yet well supported approach to understanding this mask. In the introduction, Blier points out three other theories that attempt to explain the symbolism and function of the mask. She then names each of them and indicates the fact that they are not backed up by evidence (385-386). She makes a concise argument and supports it by …show more content…
For example, she includes a quote from Johnson that states that substitutes for the king would often assume the kings place by impersonating him. Blier mentions that this could have been a tradition in Ife (394). This information was important for her to include because it gives a plausible original use for Oblufon’s mask. While she does provide plenty of research that does specifically back up her claims, some of her most effective uses of outside sources are her counterarguments. For example, Blier discusses Frank Willett’s theory about other the cast life-size heads that are similar to Copper mask said to represent Ife king Obalufon II. Similarly to what she did at the beginning of the essay, Blier explains why Willett’s theory is most likely erroneous, brings in other secondary sources that question his argument, and then proposes her own theory (394-396). Overall, the essay “Kings, Crowns, and Rights of Succession: Obalufon Arts at Ife and Other Yoruba Centers” by Suzanne Preston Blier has an effective thesis, organization, and research. Her thesis is effective because of the fact that she based it on evidence and because it gives new insight into a work that had not been comprehensively explored. The organization is clear and the research is thorough. All of these things make this a strong

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