Altar Group (Aseberia) with Oba Ewuakpe and Attendants

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Benin Kingdom, Nigeria

Altar Group (Aseberia) with Oba Ewuakpe and Attendants, 18th century

H. 58 cm (22 7/8 in.)
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Ethnologisches Museum, III C 8165

Oba Ewuakpe is a pivotal figure in the history of the Benin Kingdom. After being driven from the throne in a rebellion, he worked his way back to power through worldly diplomacy and otherworldly intervention. While this altar group depicts him at his lowest point, it also foreshadows his destiny to regain the throne. He stands stripped of the bulk of his coral regalia, wearing a European-style helmet instead of a crown, and is assisted by slaves rather than members of his court. The oba’s power-invested stone bead (ivie egbo) at his chest, however, signals that he is still rightfully the oba.