Benin Kingdom, Nigeria
Double-Gong and Striker, 16th century
H. 36.5 cm (14 3/4 in.)
The Trustees of the British Museum, London, Af1963,04.1 and Af1964,07.1
This extremely finely carved ivory double gong—double because of the second, smaller resonating cup at its front—is an artistic tour de force. Its central image is the oba in coral regalia supported by the high priests osa and osuan, officials who tend the altars of the kingdom’s two patron gods. Today a similar ivory gong is carried by the oba during Emobo, the last of the empowering rites of the Igue festival. The oba gently taps the ivory instrument, creating a rhythmic sound to calm and dismiss unruly spirits from the kingdom.