Benin Kingdom, Nigeria
Ewua Official, 18th century (?)
62 x 20 x 17 cm (24 3/8 x 7 7/8 x 6 11/16 in.)
© The Trustees of the National Museums of Scotland, A1985.631
This figure wears a beautifully patterned tunic and wrapper and a cross-shaped pendant low on his chest. In his right hand, he carries a brass-caster’s hammer, a tool used to manipulate red-hot metal. The man may be an ewua official, whose tasks include awakening the oba at dawn with rituals honoring his dynasty and its origins, a practice initiated by Oba Esigie in the 16th century. Ewua officials are often portrayed wearing a cross, a symbol that predates the Portuguese arrival in Benin, though its meaning was enhanced by its similarity to the cross of the Portuguese Order of Christ.
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