Benin Kingdom, Nigeria
Oba's Fly Wisk (Ugbudian Ivie), 18th/19th century
Coral, agate, and copper
99.5 x 10 x 4 cm (39 1/8 x 3 15/16 x 1 9/16 in.)
The Trustees of the British Museum, London, Af1898,0630.3
Regalia made of coral or red stone beads are emblematic of the oba's divine rule. Both coral and red stones are thought to be invested with a supernatural energy, called ase, which is strengthening and protective. The enisen, who make and care for beaded regalia, work in seclusion in consideration of this sacred power. At the annual Ugie Ivie festival, the regalia are washed in cow’s blood to regenerate their potency. This elegant fly whisk, made of coral and agate, is a true luxury item, as its weight—approximately five and a half pounds—makes it altogether impractical to use.