Queen Mother Pendant Mask

876 Words 4 Pages
In the 16th century, the Queen Mother Pendant Mask (pictured on the cover page) was created in the Kingdom of Benin to honor the Oba (King) Esigie’s mother, Idia, the first “Queen Mother” (or “iyoba”) of Benin.*************** (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, i.e. The Met Museum) The people who created this were known as the Edo people, also called “Bini”, who are located in today’s southern Nigeria and speak a Volta-Niger language, which is one of the branches of the Niger-Congo language family. Their territory is from west of the Niger River all the way to the swamps in the Niger Delta. ***********(The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica) What is so interesting about this pendant is how tiny it is, yet so intricately designed. It is also …show more content…
They portray Idia, the first Queen Mother of Benin City and the mother of Oba Esigie, the first Christian kind of Benin. The masks show a striking amount of motifs that associate to the Portuguese, who first arrived in Benin in the 1490s. In Benin ivories, the Portuguese are generally portrayed with long flowing hair and mustaches, and thin, deeply set oval eyes. Looking at the crown of the Queen Mother Pendant Mask, there are 14 tiny figures adorning the edge. These tiny figures are alternating between a Portuguese head and figures of mudfish. This sequence equates the Portuguese to the mudfish, which is a fish that has the lung capacity to live on both sea and land, where it sometimes lives in a hibernation-like state when on land. This comparison of the two directly correlates to the thought that the Portuguese were dead people who were reincarnated, but not as infants like reincarnation normally occurs. The Portuguese also had long hair, which reinforced this idea of them being dead because hair is thought to continue growing after one passes on. The tiny figures adorning the base of the mask are Portuguese heads only.*********** (Blier)
The pendant, which is made of mostly ivory, also contains little pieces of copper and iron located on the crown of the head and on either side of the point in between the eyes on the forehead. Ivory in Benin is identified with the sea and wealth god,
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The face of the pendant mask is that of Idia, who was the first Queen Mother of the Kingdom of Benin. Because of the Pendant’s relation to a mother, it is theorized that the symbols on the pendant are connected to ideas of fertility and femininity, therefore suggestively linking the Portuguese with these ideas as well. As mentioned earlier, the Portuguese were directly identified with Olokun, who is also seen in Edo culture as the creator of female fertility and childbirth.******** (Peavy) This connection also applies to a Benin wedding ceremony, where a man covers himself with white clay, which is associated with Olokun, the spirits, and the dead. The bride is adorned in coral, brass, manillas, glass beads, ivories, and cowries, all of which were trade items that connect back to the Portuguese. Essentially, the conclusion that combines Portuguese men, Bini women, and marriage together is each idea is connected in some way to the transfer of wealth and the creation of new life.**************

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