Benin Kingdom, Nigeria
Pair of Arm Cuffs, 18th century
.5: 13 x 9 cm (5 1/8 x 3 1/2 in.); .6: 13.1 x 9.1 cm (5 3/16 x 3 9/16 in.)
The Trustees of the British Museum, London, Af1922,0313.5-6
An extraordinary 18th-century ivory carver made these finely detailed arm cuffs. On two sides of each cuff, the oba—accompanied by helmeted warriors—raises an eben sword, stressing his control of Benin’s military might. This imagery alternates with another group of figures that centers on a high-ranking individual, possibly the ezomo, Benin’s top war chief. He is richly dressed and also raises an eben sword. Portuguese soldiers flank him, a reference to their role as Benin’s military allies in the 16th century.